‘We’re in a better spot’ – Johnson compares Warriors to this time last year

Despite having one less win than the same time last season, Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is adamant the team is tracking better in 2024.

“We’re in a better spot… as a team, I think our understanding of our style and what wins games. I think we’re far more advanced,” Johnson told media on Wednesday.

“It’s completely up to us as individuals whether we want to do it for long periods.”

The Warriors started their season last year with a two win-one loss record going into round four in 2023, having beaten the Knights and Cowboys, and dropping a game to the Roosters.

The Warriors take on the Newcastle Knights on Sunday evening, after recording their first win of the season against the Raiders in Christchurch. The 18-10 result wasn’t pretty, something that Johnson said meant winning wasn’t always an indicator of how a team is performing.

“We had the conversations that needed to be had, but we also celebrated the positives. Just that chat around continued improvement… how we carry ourselves and how we apply ourselves every day is what we’re judged on in these four walls,” he said.

The Knights are coming off a hard fought 14-12 upset over the Storm in Newcastle, the result coming off the back of a good combination by halves Jack Cogger and Tyson Gamble. Johnson said that his combination with Luke Metcalf was coming along nicely and will have to fire on Sunday night.

“We were able to get a lot of reps in the pre-season and I’m really happy for Lukey and how he’s finding his feet. He’s inserting himself at the right times, not forcing things, which is something I know he’s been working hard on.”

Marata Niukore makes his return to the side after missing the first three rounds with a foot fracture. Coach Andrew Webster confirmed Niukore will be used in a middle forward role primarily when he comes off the interchange bench. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck moves back to fullback after starting the first three games at centre, however, he has played a significant amount of minutes there this season already due to Taine Tuaupiki’s injuries.

“I guess everyone involved with the joint, fans and everyone included are pretty excited to see him back at fullback. Taine’s done a great job, him copping a head knock is pretty unfortunate.” Johnson said.

Adam Pompey returns to the centres, after playing every game in the Warriors’ campaign last season. Wayde Egan has once again been named to start at hooker, after being a late scratching from the Warriors’ last two games.

Warriors v Raiders

Kickoff: 6:05pm, Sunday 31 March

Go Media Mt Smart Stadium

Live blog updates on RNZ Sport

Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Luke Metcalf 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Jackson Ford 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Tohu Harris

Interchange: 14. Freddy Lussick 15. Marata Niukore 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Dylan Walker

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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