Johnson denies hunting $900k NRL deal

Shaun Johnson celebrates kicking the winning goal for Cronulla against Penrith on Friday.
Shaun Johnson celebrates kicking the winning goal for Cronulla against Penrith on Friday.

Photoshop his head with a different NRL jersey, just don't say Shaun Johnson is chasing a $900,000 paycheque he knows he can't get.

The ex-Kiwis halfback has attempted to clear the record on contract negotiations he says never started at Cronulla, and haven't begun anywhere else.

After kicking the winning field goal for the Sharks to sink leaders Penrith in a 19-18 thriller on Friday night, Johnson fronted up to explain what was next for him.

At 30, Johnson knows he is no longer one of the hottest prospects on the NRL market and will take a pay cut to continue his career at another club.

Johnson wanted to make it clear that reports he was denied a request for a $900,000 contract extension are far from the mark.

"Would I like to earn that money? Of course, anyone would," he said.

"But it's just not the case.

"I'm not going to sell myself short; I'm still going to go somewhere where they show that they value me.

"I know what I'm worth ... but I'm certainly not walking around to clubs asking for $900,000.

"I'm not worried about who it scares off; I'm worried about how it looks to the fans, the people whose opinion I respect.

"I'm saying right now, I'm not that person.

"I'm not asking for that money and I never once have.

"Would it be nice, 100 per cent, but it's just fabricated."

A phone call from incoming Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon came 15 minutes before the club announced the signing of Melbourne utility Nicho Hynes for next season just over a week ago.

Since that tough conversation, Johnson has been linked to South Sydney, Canberra and Canterbury, although he denies having spoken to any club yet.

His former club the Warriors have also passed on the chance to re-sign him after his manager reached out to all NRL clubs to gauge interest.

However, Friday's clutch moment was a timely reminder of what he is capable of.

Johnson was one of three players told by Fitzgibbon they weren't required next year, with former Kangaroos Josh Dugan and Aaron Woods also informed their contracts would not be renewed.

Once three of the biggest representative stars in the game, they are now without a club for next season.

Johnson accepts there just isn't the money to go around.

"You've got your exceptions but just the way the game's heading and the way clubs' are controlling the cap, it's not too common anymore," he said.

"I'm getting a bit older, but for me, I actually feel like I'm in the best place I've been with my footy ... mentally as well.

"From the outside, it could look like 'he's getting older, he's slowing down, but for me, while that's happening, I've been growing up here (in the head).

"That's what's exciting me and that's why I feel like I have so much to offer."

Australian Associated Press