Sheens unfazed as Johnson snubs Wests Tigers

Coach Tim Sheens has shrugged off Shaun Johnson's decision to reject the Wests Tigers' advances, saying he admires the loyalty the veteran halfback has shown to the Warriors.

Johnson returned to his debut club last year and has been in career-best form since the Warriors relocated to Auckland this season.

The 32-year-old is off-contract at the season's end and Sheens revealed last month the Tigers had been in contact to gauge the player's interest in a move to the joint venture from 2024.

Warriors coach Andrew Webster was unfazed by the Tigers' plans at the time, and during the week Johnson declared he would either retire at the end of the 2023 campaign or re-sign with the Kiwi side.

Johnson's decision is the latest blow to the Tigers, who have approached other playmakers including Mitchell Pearce, Cameron Munster and Mitchell Moses in recent times, only for all three to stay put at their current clubs.

The halves situation is now becoming more urgent for the Tigers, whose halfback Luke Brooks is off-contract at the end of 2023 and said two weeks ago he was unsure whether he wanted to remain at Concord.

Adam Doueihi went down with an anterior cruciate ligament tear in April and Sheens has previously said he expected his first-choice five-eighth to miss significant time next season with the injury - the third of its kind the Lebanon international has suffered.

Back-up playmaker Brandon Wakeham is without a deal beyond 2023. But despite Johnson's decision complicating the situation further, Sheens insists there is no need to panic.

"We had a word with Shaun but it's not a major let-down," Sheens said.

"If he stays with the same club, that's fine. Mitchell did that and so did Munster and that's fine. If they went to another club, I'd be worried.

"They stayed at their own club and that's fine. I commend them for it, really. "I like to see players loyal to their club if the club has been good to them."

Kyle Flanagan, Cooper Johns and Jaeman Salmon are among the other playmakers off-contract at the end of the year but Sheens would not reveal the club's next target.

"We're always looking at other options but if and when we get something, then I'll tell you (the media)," he said.

Tigers hooker Api Koroisau is likely to line up against Canberra on Friday night, 48 hours after playing 80 minutes for NSW in the State of Origin series opener.

Sheens named Koroisau to start but will wait until his captain arrives back at Tigers HQ before locking-in the selection decision.

"He wants to play," Sheens said. "I'm not sure until we see him exactly what we're going to do there."

NSW's 19th man Stefano Utoikamanu flew back from Adelaide in time for the Tigers' captain's run and will start in the front row as planned.