LISTEN ABOVE AS PETER PETERS SPEAKS TO RADIO SPORT BREAKFAST
A veteran rugby league commentator has launched a sensational attack on the Warriors management - and in particular the club's chief executive Cameron George - for cutting ties with star halfback Shaun Johnson.
Johnson was granted a release from the final year of his contract on Wednesday, after the club informed him they wouldn't extend his deal next year, despite eight seasons at Mt Smart.
Former Manly official and Sky Sport radio commentator Peter Peters has slammed the move for being "stunning, undignified, unnecessary, and overreactive" and claims the Warriors have stolen thousands of young New Zealand league fans' hero.
"Thousands of kids must be waking up in New Zealand today with the No 7 jersey, wondering what the heck is going on. They've had their hero stolen from them - virtually kicked out of the club he's been so much a part of," Peters told the Radio Sport Breakfast.
"He's a special player. He's the highest point scorer in the history of the club. He is to New Zealand rugby league what JT [Johnathan Thurston] was to Australian rugby league."
The controversial Peters blames the "Australian influence" at the Warriors for Johnson's departure.
"From this side of the ditch, it seems the Aussie influence of Brian Smith (the Warriors' general manager football), Todd Payton (new assistant coach), Peter O'Sullivan (recruitment manager), and a wet-behind-the-ears in terms of being a rugby league CEO shoving the face of the game in New Zealand [in it] and Shaun Johnson out the door.
"There's no other way to look at it. They virtually did it while he [Johnson] was on tour in the UK with the Kiwis. That makes it worse, it appears the Warriors have fallen in the old trap of having too many influential people."
Peters is particularly severe in his criticism of George, who joined the Warriors last year after great success as CEO of Auckland Racing, and head coach Stephen Kearney.
"The coach has been significant in his absence in all this. He hasn't said a word. It's all come back to a bloke who was running the races there in Auckland just 12 months ago. It doesn't add up."
The Warriors will struggle to find a replacement of Johnson's quality, Peters warned.
"While they're beating their own chest now and letting Shaun Johnson go, I can't see them getting anywhere near the top 8 next year," he said.
"Just don't think there's any planning at the Warriors. We talk about this new regime at the Warriors, about how everyone's accountable …well they came in eighth. Are we celebrating eight? If we are, you might as well not be in the NRL."
Johnson is expected to ink a three-year deal with the Cronulla Sharks and on Friday thanked his (now former) captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for his support on social media.
"Damn its gonna be weird playing the boys. Thanks bro, pleasure has been all mine skip," Johnson posted.