NRL 2022: Shaun Johnson passes fit for NZ Warriors v Brisbane Broncos, Kodi Nikorima drops to bench

Shaun Johnson has been passed fit for the NZ Warriors' NRL round four clash against Brisbane Broncos, making an early return from a pectoral strain.

However, centre Rocco Berry has also been ruled out of Saturday's match with a virus, not COVID-19, with no word given for now on who will partner Jess Arthars. 

Johnson, 31, picked up the injury in the Warriors' first match of the season - a 28-16 defeat to St George Illawarra Dragons - and was ruled out for up to a month.

But he has recovered quicker than expected, and was named on an extended bench for the Warriors before they face the Broncos at Redcliffe on Saturday.

And after proving his fitness in the week, Johnson has been moved into the starting side to partner Chanel Harris-Tavita in the halves, relegating Kodi Nikorima to the bench.

Speaking on Friday, assistant coach Stacey Jones outlined that there's no concern over Johnson's fitness - a credit to his off-field work and rehabilitation to come back from the injury earlier than expected.

"Shaun's come through the week really good, he's good to go," Jones said.

"He's experienced, knows his body and is professional around his rehab and that. Obviously it's really great for the team to have Shaun back. After his first hit-out he was disappointed he couldn't play the following week.

"He's a really good addition to get back into the squad and obviously a key player, especially around our attack."

Johnson's inclusion will see him join arguably the Warriors' strongest spine - playing with the combination of Harris-Tavita at five-eighth, Reece Walsh at fullback and Wayde Egan at hooker for the first time this season.

And Jones indicates that the Walsh-Harris-Tavita-Johnson-Egan axis will be the one the Warriors look to implement as its first-choice option going forward into the rest of the season.

In particular, Walsh and Johnson will play together for the first time, after the young fullback missed the season opener due to suspension.

NRL 2022: Shaun Johnson passes fit for NZ Warriors v Brisbane Broncos, Kodi Nikorima drops to bench

"You want to have players in key positions to be playing every week, not be chopping and changing," he adds.

"We've had to chop and change through injury and whatnot. Obviously, Reece didn't play the first game.

"You'd like to have players in your dummy half role, your halves and your fullback, you want them to be consistent.

"Hopefully this is going to be a group that'll be consistent for the rest of the year. Add Kodi in there, where he can come off the bench, and for me it's a pretty good looking spine."

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