Vodafone Warriors interim head coach Todd Payten admits Shaun Johnson’s return from injury to face his old team has added “a little bit of spice” to Sunday’s 18th-round NRL clash against the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney (6.30pm kick-off local time; 8.30pm NZT).
The ledger stands at one a piece since Johnson joined the Sharks after the 2018 season.
In last year’s only encounter between the two clubs, Johnson was on the receiving end when a 74th-minute Blake Green field goal enabled the Vodafone Warriors to hold off Cronulla for a 19-18 victory in Wellington.
Johnson was in charge with the ball in the most recent meeting in Gosford on July 19, scoring a try, kicking seven goals and laying on two tries in Cronulla’s 46-10 victory. On the flipside he was spotted on defence and missed seven tackles.
“Shaun will improve them as a team,” said Payten.
“They'll have a different attacking style with him back.
“It also adds a little spice to it having Shaun playing against us. He's held in high regard by our playing group and has a lot of close friends in our team. They'd like to get one up over him after the way he played against us last time.”
Payten added the Vodafone Warriors have a total understanding of the critical nature of the match.
“Everyone's aware of where we're at,” he said.
“We had a solid session today building for the rest of the week. I'm sure the Sharks are well aware of how desperate we'll be.”
Payten said having Parramatta loan players Daniel Alvaro and George Jennings back is “a positive for us.”