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Here is all you need to know about the Warriors ahead of the 2022 Telstra Premiership season.

The Lowdown

Overview

After departing the Warriors in acrimonious circumstances three years ago, Shaun Johnson is back and much of the club's hopes will ride on his influence and impact in the halves. Johnson is a more mature player than when he left but the Kiwi international has lost none of his brilliance and he showed no ill effects from an Achilles injury when he returned for the Sharks midway through last season. Since signing with the Warriors, it has been obvious that Johnson loves the club and he is hopefully better equipped to cope with the pressures of being the star playmaker for New Zealand's only NRL team. Teen sensation Reece Walsh should ease some of the burden on Johnson after a stunning debut season in 2021, while the Warriors have a forward pack equal to any in the competition.

However, discipline was an issue last year, with star prop Matt Lodge among the worst offenders after receiving three suspensions and a $5,000 fine during his six-match stint with the Warriors. With the likes of Tohu Harris, Addin Fonua-Blake, Kodi Nikorima, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Ben Murdoch-Masila, as well as Johnson, Walsh and Lodge, the Warriors have a team that should be finals contenders.

Shaun Johnson is returning to the Warriors in 2022
Shaun Johnson is returning to the Warriors in 2022 ©Photo Sport NZ

Possible best 17

1. Reece Walsh, 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3. Rocco Berry, 4. Adam Pompey, 5. Marcelo Montoya, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Kodi Nikorima, 8. Matt Lodge, 9. Wayde Egan, 10. Addin Fonua-Blake, 11. Tohu Harris, 12. Euan Aitken, 13. Josh Curran, 14. Jazz Tevaga, 15. Bayley Sironen, 16. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 17. Bunty Afoa.

Reece Walsh will be one of the Warriors key players in 2022
Reece Walsh will be one of the Warriors key players in 2022 ©Photo Sport NZ

Key changes

The return of Johnson and the departure of superstar captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to rugby union are set to have the biggest impact on the Warriors' fortunes this season. The club has lost further experience in the outside backs with Peta Hiku (Cowboys) and David Fusitu'a (Leeds) leaving and Ken Maumalo's mid-season switch to the Tigers but the pair were restricted by injury in 2021. Forwards Kane Evans (Hull FC), Leeson Ah Mau and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown (Cowboys) have also left, along with back-up playmakers Sean O'Sullivan (Panthers) and Paul Turner (Titans). However, the Warriors negotiated a number of mid-season transfers last year, with Reece Walsh, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Matt Lodge joining the squad after the competition had started.

Prop Aaron Pene has been recruited from the Storm, while back Jesse Arthars will play for the Warriors on a one-year loan from Brisbane and former Titans playmaker Ash Taylor is on a train-and-trial deal.

Former Titans playmaker Ash Taylor is on a train-and-trial deal
Former Titans playmaker Ash Taylor is on a train-and-trial deal ©Photo Sport NZ

Health check

Harris, the Warriors newly appointed captain, hopes to return in May after rupturing his ACL in last year's Round 18 clash with Penrith and is back running with the team. The Warriors will also be without Walsh for the opening round clash with the Dragons due to suspension after he pleaded guilty to a cocaine charge. Murdoch-Masila is expected to be available for the trials after a foot injury prematurely ended his 2021 season in Round 20. Fellow forwards Bunty Afoa (hamstring) and Taniela Otukolo (knee) are also scheduled for pre-season returns.

Newly appointed Warriors captain Tohu Harris is recovering from a knee injury
Newly appointed Warriors captain Tohu Harris is recovering from a knee injury ©Photo Sport NZ

Biggest question mark

Can the Warriors find the consistency and discipline required to make the play-offs in their second season under Nathan Brown. The club has faced more disruptions and hurdles than any other after being forced to relocate to Australia at the start of the 2020 season but the time for excuses is over and the Warriors need to be in serious finals contention when they finally return home to play Penrith on June 18.

©Chelsea Jones/NRL Graphics

Opening month

A Sunshine Coast home game against the Dragons gets things underway for the Warriors before an away game just down the road against the Titans then a trip to face the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt. A home game against the Broncos at Redcliffe rounds out an opening month in which the Warriors need to cash in on games against some of last year's lower-finishing sides.

Warriors coach Nathan Brown and assistant Stacey Jones oversee training
Warriors coach Nathan Brown and assistant Stacey Jones oversee training ©Photo Sport NZ

Toughest stretch

Things ramp up in round six with a trip to face the Roosters at the SCG then the Storm in Melbourne. A home game against the Raiders in round eight is then followed by a trip to the Shire to meet the Sharks and a tough Magic Round clash against grand finalists South Sydney at Suncorp in round 10.

Make it count

The Warriors will be aiming to get their 2022 campaign off to a flier as the Titans are the only finalists from last season that they face in the first five rounds. The Warriors are scheduled to play their last five home matches at Mt Smart Stadium, and while they face the Panthers and Storm, as well as the Tigers, Bulldogs and Titans, the Auckland-based club will be looking to capitalise on the emotion-charged support of Kiwi fans after almost three years in Australia.

Addin Fonua-Blake at Warriors pre-season training
Addin Fonua-Blake at Warriors pre-season training ©Photo Sport NZ

NRL Fantasy: Warriors 2022 prices

Tohu Harris: MID/EDG, $763,000
Josh Curran: EDG/MID, $675,000
Reece Walsh: WFB, $655,000
Addin Fonua-Blake: MID, $651,000
Wayde Egan: HOK, $620,000
Matthew Lodge: MID, $573,000
Shaun Johnson: HLF, $544,000
Euan Aitken: CTR/EDG, $540,000
Kodi Nikorima: HLF, $523,000
Bayley Sironen: EDG, $520,000
Jazz Tevaga: MID, $516,000
Adam Pompey: CTR/WFB, $490,000
Chanel Harris-Tavita: HLF, $461,000
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak: WFB, $442,000
Eliesa Katoa: EDG, $426,000
Bunty Afoa: MID, $424,000
Ben Murdoch-Masila: MID/EDG, $408,000
Taniela Otukolo: HOK, $370,000
Marcelo Montoya: WFB, $361,000
Jack Murchie: EDG, $358,000
Rocco Berry: WFB/CTR, $358,000
Aaron Pene: MID, $348,000
Edward Kosi: WFB, $300,000
Jesse Arthars: CTR/WFB, $291,000
Viliami Vai'lea: CTR, $240,000
Pride Petterson-Robati: MID, $240,000
Junior Ratuva: WFB, $220,000

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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