Johnson's regret on NRL return to NZ

Shaun Johnson breaks the line for the Sharks against the Melbourne Storm last week. Photo: Getty...
Shaun Johnson breaks the line for the Sharks against the Melbourne Storm last week. Photo: Getty Images
Shaun Johnson admits he still yearns for a chance to play in front of the Mt Smart faithful again.

Almost eight months after his shock exit from the Warriors, Johnson gets the chance to take on the Auckland club with the Cronulla Sharks on Friday night.

But the quirks of the NRL draw see the game played in Wellington, which the 28-year-old admits is a shame.

"I would have liked it to be in Auckland to be honest," Johnson told Radio Sport.

"It is a bit sad that it has turned out that way. I would have liked the opportunity to go back to Mt Smart and been given the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone that had supported me over my career. I haven't had that opportunity but it doesn't always play out like you would like it. We are all getting on with things, all moving on."

The circumstances of Johnson's departure were far from ideal, and both parties still have regrets over how the episode played out.

Johnson's return to these shores has been heavily hyped, and the game will be undoubtedly the most scrutinised Warriors' game this season so far.

Johnson, who played 163 games in Warriors colours, is excited about the clash but also pragmatic about the situation.

"It is what it is," said Johnson. "It is just another game of footy. The only thing I have been thinking about is whether I am going to get booed or not. We have got a little sweepstake going [among the team]."

He said he remains close to many on the Warriors roster but has avoided too much contact this week.

"We are here to play footy and don't want to blur those lines too much," said Johnson. "I have to tackle them and they have to try and tackle me. Hopefully, they are ready for me."

The 2014 Golden Boot winner declared himself fit to play, playing down any fears about the state of his ankle, despite being in a moon boot after the 40-16 loss to the Storm last Saturday.

"It's fine," said Johnson. "It's been blown way out of proportion. I've seen all the reports going round and I have been laughing at some of them. I'm all good, walking around fine, with captain's run tomorrow."

Pressed on his own form in 2019, Johnson admits it has been "up and down".

Criticism has been strong from some quarters across the Tasman — pointing out the Sharks have won only three of 10 games that Johnson has featured in — but the playmaker is candid about his situation.

"With all these reports coming out about me and how I am going, it's like, I don't know who thought this but everyone expected it to be just smooth sailing and a really smooth transition where I would just slot in, kill it straight away, there would be no speed bumps, there would be no hurdles to jump," said Johnson, who has missed six games in 2019 through injury.

"For me, where I am at at the moment it's not any surprise. I would have loved to have had a better start to the year [and] stay injury-free. But this is part of the journey and part of adapting to a new football club."

Johnson revealed he has had productive discussions with coach John Morris — who benched him late in the game two weeks ago — and is now on an upward curve.

"The more games and training sessions I can string together the better I feel," said Johnson. "Over the last month I have been able to do that which has been really good and the game against Melbourne was a massive step forward for me personally and as a team."

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