NRL 2022: Shaun Johnson admits disappointment of poor NZ Warriors season, confident of 2023 resurgence

By his own standards, Shaun Johnson didn't live up to his own expectations with NZ Warriors in 2022.

After a fairytale return to the Warriors after three years with Cronulla Sharks, Johnson's comeback to the Kiwi club was heralded as a reason for fans to be optimistic about a return to better days.

But with the team still unable to return to New Zealand for most of the season, Johnson was just one of a number of Warriors players unable to hit the heights this year, as the team missed out on the NRL finals for the fourth year in a row.

Shaun Johnson is tackled against Parramatta Eels.
Shaun Johnson is tackled against Parramatta Eels. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

As the team's linchpin, Johnson hasn't hit the heights he'd have hoped, making 21 appearances for the club, scoring three tries and assisting 14 more, with the Warriors 14th on the ladder before their final fixture. 

A calf injury has scratched Johnson from the Warriors' season farewell against Gold Coast Titans at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday, denying him the chance to finish in front of a home crowd.

Speaking on Friday before the end of the Warriors season, the 31-year-old held his hands up, pointing the finger at his own displays as part of the club languishing 14th on the NRL ladder, and narrowly avoiding a first wooden spoon.

"I haven't delivered on what I wanted to," Johnson said. "When I signed, I was really clear - not about the expectations of other people - but what I wanted to bring to the group.

"It hasn't been easy at times, but ultimately I don't think I've delivered on what I wanted to. I think if I did, we'd maybe be sitting a little different. 

"I'm not saying I'm the only reason for our season being the way it is. But if I look at my own game, my own performances, I didn't do what I wanted to do.

"Some of that was influenced by what was going on away from the field, some of that was simply not doing my job at times."

But since the Warriors' return to New Zealand, playing at Mt Smart Stadium for the first time in more than 1000 days, Johnson's form has returned to levels of those before his departure.

Of his 14 assists this season, half of them have come in the last eight games.

Shaun Johnson.
Shaun Johnson. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Crediting the return to New Zealand, Johnson asserts he's looking forward to 2023, where the Warriors will be based at home for the first time since 2019, under new coach Andrew Webster.

What's more, 2023 will see Johnson reunite with wife Kayla and daughter Millah, after years of living apart due to COVID-19.

"I always loved the sport," he added. "I just felt it was very hard to deal with and cope with not performing when I didn't have that support network with me.

"You find yourself having conversations with yourself, as opposed to someone next to you to bounce off, or even just take your mind off things.

"I'm really excited for the break, for the off-season, enjoying time back here in New Zealand, enjoying things I've missed not just the last year, but three, four years since I was here.

"I'll come in ready for next season with a big smile on my face, knowing we're going to be based here in New Zealand, and see what that holds."

Johnson also gave nothing away over his future, unable to confirm either way if he'd continue playing after he comes off contract with the Warriors at the end of 2023.

"I've got one year left on my contract. I'm 32 next week - is 32 young or is 32 old?

"If I'm feeling good [mentally], and my body's feeling good, I don't know why I should retire, if I feel like I can still contribute to the group.

"But in saying that, it's still a year away. As of right now, I'm excited to play footy next year.

"If we get to this position next year, and I'm saying the same thing then [we'll see]."

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