Shaun Johnson is ready and raring to rip in with Cronulla after signing a three-year deal to join the Sharks.
Johnson was granted a release from the final year of his contract with the New Zealand Warriors to take up a fresh start in the shire.
Having lost fullback Valentine Holmes, who was also released from the final year of his contract with Cronulla to pursue a career in the NFL, the Sharks may have signed a replacement with as much star power as Holmes on the field – and even more off it.
To put Johnson’s popularity in context, the New Zealand international has more than 306,000 followers on social media – the Sharks have about 86,000.
Johnson flew into Sydney on Friday night with his partner, New Zealand netball international Kayla Cullen, and was given a tour of the shire by coach Shane Flanagan on Saturday morning.
He also spent some time with Sharks stars Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham at Cronulla before signing his three-year contract.
“What a spot, man. What a spot. It’s unreal. Back home I grew up around beaches but nothing quite like this. So with being away from home it’s got some similar feels which are definitely helpful for me and my partner,” Johnson said.
“It’s really exciting. Obviously it’s been a pretty crazy few weeks. But to be able to get over here and lock it all away, I just can’t wait to get over and get stuck in.”
Johnson headed straight back to New Zealand on Saturday afternoon but is expected to return to the shire at the end of this week.
He will officially start pre-season training with the Sharks on January 7.
The 28-year-old said he was keen to contribute to an already successful Sharks side. It is likely Johnson will start the season at five-eighth alongside 2016 premiership-winning halfback Chad Townsend.
That would force Matt Moylan to shift to fullback to cover for the loss of Holmes. Cronulla would still have highly-rated youngster Kyle Flanagan as further depth in the halves.
“Obviously all you want to do is play footy. The Sharks are a tough side. They know how to win. That’s what I’m really excited to be a part of. So we’ll enjoy the break for now but definitely can’t wait to get over here, meet the boys and get stuck in with them,” Johnson said.
“Obviously [some of the] boys we’ve played against each other for a few years now. But in particular Chad Townsend. I played a bit of footy with him over in NZ. But looking forward to obviously getting to know all the boys and really getting stuck in.
“I want to add value where I can. Playing with some experienced players, some big boys in the forward pack it’s going to make our jobs a lot easier. We’ll see what unfolds but really pumped to get all this locked away and bring on the start of the season.”