Shaun Johnson is eying plans for life after football but will treat his NRL return from a ruptured achilles tendon like a late-career contract audition at Cronulla.
Johnson is well on his way to recovery from last year’s horror injury and is expected to ramp up his rehabilitation in the coming weeks.
Cronulla are hopeful of having the star playmaker back by mid-April but the more realistic timeline revolved around a return in round nine or 10.
Johnson is off contract at Cronulla at season’s end and at age 30 is happy to admit he has begun to think about what’s next.
But that doesn’t mean he plans on it all ending this year.
Last season marked the best of Johnson’s career, laying on 23 tries for the Sharks before it ended abruptly in round 19.
That prompted Cronulla to put the start of contract talks on hold, with Johnson left to focus on his rehabilitation.
“If I go around, if I sign with another club, if I re-sign here or whatever I do if I play on, it’s a massive month really,” Johnson said.
“I understand that I’m going to miss the first part of the season so there might be a few people out there bit hesitant to have those chats,
“It’s like I’m auditioning (when I return) but in saying that I can’t let that drive me, I can’t let that be the core focus of what I want to do.
“Because that’ll probably take my attention away from what I’ve actually got to do in here.
“Whatever happens. Wherever I go, if I stay whatever I do, I know I’ll be OK with it … I’m not sweating bullets about what’s next.”
Johnson’s approach is symbolic of his more mature approach to life.
Last year’s rise to form came off the back of working with mental health coach Dan Haesler.
It is due to that work Johnson also believes he can rebound back to his best after the long injury lay-off and win over potential suitors.
The coronavirus pandemic and the birth of his first child has also given Johnson a new approach off the field.
“I’m 30. So why not put myself in a position to if it was going to end this year. I’ll be OK with it,” Johnson said.
“I’ve seen ex-teammates retire and stand around scratching heads about what’s going on next.
“I’m working to make sure that when that time comes, it’s not going to be a shock to the system where I’m trying to find the next buck to raise my daughter.
“The preferences is to play on … It’s more the fact that like when that day comes, I’m going to be OK.”