Shaun Johnson and George Williams – NRL purgatory

Shaun Johnson and George Williams
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Shaun Johnson and George Williams are two Halfbacks who when they get going can electrify the opposition with their dazzling moves and abilities to create something out of nothing. However, that’s not all the similarities that the two veterans share! Something else that both players have in common is that they both currently find themselves in disastrous situations as they attempt to navigate through the shaky waves that are their respective futures in the sport that is Rugby League.

Current Kiwi representative Johnson is yet to have received an offer from Cronulla for next season. Meaning that he could be done with the Sharks at the conclusion of the year. His combination of age (currently, he’s aged 30) and injury history has forced him to look elsewhere in order to shore up his future. It’s even been reported that he’s spoken to former Wallabies head coach Michael Chieka about a possible code switch.

As for the 10X capped England international Williams he has recently come out on social media to fervently deny James Hooper’s reports that the 2X Super League winner is currently trying to force his way out of the Raiders effective ASAP. Williams’s social media post was even liked by some of his teammates including Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii among others (insert starting eye emoji here). Suffice to say there’s a lot going on for both players at the moment as they each find themselves in and amongst the headlines.

What’s Happened to Johnson?

Johnson’s one is a difficult one to analyse as he still has a lot to offer any team, either in Australia or abroad in Europe perhaps. But the fact that he’s featured in only three games this season for Cronulla does not bode well for him. It remains to be seen whether he is physically and mentally up to the grind of a full NRL season anymore. Perhaps if he went to England or participated in a shorter Rugby Union season he may fare alright. But as you can obviously tell it would be a major potential issue for any respective employer.

Just last season (2020) Johnson snapped his Achilles tendon. While in the season prior to that he tore his hamstring and was ruled out for around 4-6 weeks. He certainly doesn’t have a great track record with injuries.

Whilst he’s obviously been a great individual player throughout his career having scored 82 tries in total (across both club and rep Footy) that may well be all he is, a great individual player and maybe not so much a team-oriented one. Outside of making the 2011 Grand Final with the Warriors every other season, they constantly choked under the pressure. And he ain’t done much for Cronulla either! He’s great for the highlight packages, but maybe not so much the results?

Where To Next For Johnson?

My overall verdict is that Johnson still has something to offer a Rugby League team if he has the right people placed around him. I would love to see him move to Canberra from 2022 onwards to replace Williams because what he could do for their Forwards in particular could be massive in revitalizing the club into becoming a powerhouse once again. somebody like Ricky Stuart would absolutely toughen someone like Johnson up to the fullest degree possible. If he moves to the right club then this is a banging move, yet if he moves to the wrong one he may be forced into retirement earlier than expected.

What’s Happened to George Williams?

James Hooper reported that Williams was refusing to train for Canberra and wasn’t willing to show up for their match against the Roosters on the Central Coast this Saturday night. That sparked an absolute media frenzy with the likes of the Western Advocate, Canberra Times, Fox League, the NRL’s official website, The Age, Nine and so, so many other media news sources reporting on it.

Williams himself came out on social media and had this to say:

Hooper then came out firing on all cylinders as per Fox Sports saying, “If you’re so homesick George, then why did your agent contact rival NRL clubs over summer suggesting you were keen on “getting the full Australian experience and living closer to the beach”?”

In the wake of all of this, the Raiders decided to grant Williams an immediate release.

Williams’s situation is a vastly complicated one to untangle, or at least a lot more difficult than Johnson’s. He was in the middle of a three-year contract with the Raiders which is worth just under two million dollars total. The Raiders also paid Wigan two-hundred-thousand dollars in order to release him and let him play in the land down under.

It’s a very messy situation indeed but at the end of the day Williams has a baby on the way and he and his partner wants to be close to family in England for the birth. Ultimately he should be commended for putting his family above all else (if that’s true). So everything involving Hooper, the Raiders management, Williams and his agent, and hell even Wigan needs to be sorted. Ultimately we’re talking about the mental health and wellbeing of a young family and if this is what they need to do then who is anyone to get in their way?

What’s Next For Williams?

rightly or wrongly it does leave his future in any professional or semi-professional Rugby League competition look very shaky. What club in England would want to take on his potential baggage given everything that’s just unfolded? He might well be a cut-price player from now on despite the loveliness of him putting his family before his career.

My overall verdict is that Williams will sign with an English Super League club in the near future but for a price well below his market value given everything that’s just unfolded/continues to unfold. The same goes for/applies to Johnson. Both players have futures in the game of Rugby League, but probably not as we’ve ever seen them before.

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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