New Zealand Warriors cut disgruntled star halfback Shaun Johnson

AFP-JIJI

The New Zealand Warriors granted halfback Shaun Johnson an immediate contract release Wednesday, saying retaining the disgruntled star would compromise the National Rugby League club’s values.

Johnson had a year to run on his lucrative contract but his relationship with the Warriors deteriorated in recent weeks after the Auckland-based club said it could not guarantee him a new deal.

The 28-year-old, reportedly one of the highest paid players in the NRL on $1 million New Zealand dollars ($680,000) a year, responded by asking for a release from his contract after eight years with the club.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George said the request was granted after Johnson made it clear he did not want to be at the club, adding “it’s disappointing it has come to this”.

“We are not going to compromise our culture on and off the field with people who do not wish to represent our club, members and fans in the way we expect,” he said in a statement.

Johnson, a mainstay of the Kiwis national team, is the Warriors’ all-time highest scorer, with 917 points from 162 matches.

Australian media reports say the Cronulla Sharks are finalizing an offer for Johnson and several other NRL clubs are also interested in signing him.