Shaun Johnson is a confirmed starter for the One New Zealand Warriors’ NRL semifinal against the Newcastle Knights at Go Media Stadium today (6.05pm kick-off).
After a week of speculation about his fitness the club’s 33-year-old player of the year has been cleared to play the seventh finals match of his career, his first since 2019 when he was with the Sharks.
A calf complaint ruled the 250-game veteran Johnson out of the qualifying final loss to Penrith on his 33rd birthday last Saturday.
In Johnson’s absence against the Panthers, Te Maire Martin was moved to halfback for just his second first-grade outing since breaking his left fibula in early April.
Ironically that was against the Knights, the injury coming just after halftime in the 24-34 sixth-round loss in Newcastle. That was also the last time Johnson and Martin were in the side together.
Earlier they were also paired up against the Knights in the club’s first-round encounter in Wellington when the One New Zealand Warriors launched their season with a gritty 20-12 win.
Match: Warriors v Knights
Finals Week 2 -
Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-KlokstadFullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
Winger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-ZelezniakWinger for Knights is number 2 Dominic Young
Centre for Warriors is number 3 Rocco BerryCentre for Knights is number 3 Dane Gagai
Centre for Warriors is number 4 Adam PompeyCentre for Knights is number 4 Bradman Best
Winger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo MontoyaWinger for Knights is number 5 Greg Marzhew
Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Te Maire MartinFive-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Tyson Gamble
Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Knights is number 7 Adam Clune
Prop for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-BlakeProp for Knights is number 8 Jacob Saifiti
Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde EganHooker for Knights is number 9 Phoenix Crossland
Prop for Warriors is number 10 Mitchell BarnettProp for Knights is number 10 Leo Thompson
2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Jackson Ford2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Tyson Frizell
2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Marata Niukore2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Dylan Lucas
Lock for Warriors is number 13 Tohu HarrisLock for Knights is number 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Dylan WalkerInterchange for Knights is number 14 Kurt Mann
Interchange for Warriors is number 15 Jazz TevagaInterchange for Knights is number 16 Jack Hetherington
Interchange for Warriors is number 16 Bayley SironenInterchange for Knights is number 17 Mat Croker
Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Josh CurranInterchange for Knights is number 18 Brodie Jones
Replacement for Warriors is number 20 Taine TuaupikiReplacement for Knights is number 20 Fa'amanu Brown
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins
Fullback Taine Tuaupiki has been named as 18th man with hooker Freddy Lussick 19th man.
The starting pack is the same as the one used in Wellington on March 3 when new signing Mitchell Barnett was in the front row against his former teammates, one of six players making their club debuts.
The performance in the capital provided the foundations for a season which saw the One New Zealand Warriors go on to register 16 wins and claim a top four spot to guarantee a home final for the first time since 2008.
While the One New Zealand Warriors go into today’s semi-final on the back of a 6-32 loss to defending premier Penrith, the Knights edged Canberra 30-28 in a dramatic extra-time contest in Newcastle on Sunday. It was the Knights’ 10th win on end, one short of the club record of 11.
They finished the regular season in fifth spot on 35 points, three behind the Warriors.
There has been little between the two clubs 48 meetings since 1995 with the One New Zealand Warriors winning 23 times, the Knights 24 with one draw.
This will be the first match between them in Auckland since 2019 when Newcastle won 36-18.
In their only previous home finals, the One New Zealand Warriors beat Canberra 36-20 in 2002, lost to Parramatta 10-12 in 2007 and beat the Sydney Roosters 30-13 in 2008.
This will be the first time the Warriors and Newcastle have met in what will be the home side’s 19th play-off match in history.