NZ Warriors veteran Shaun Johnson has confirmed he will return to the club for at least another season, after turning down offers from other NRL clubs and considering retirement.
Johnson, 32, has rediscovered the best form of his 13-year first-grade career in 2023, guiding the club towards a top-eight playoff spot for the first time since 2018.
His play has sparked heightened interest on the open market, with his name linked strongly to Wests Tigers and coach-in-waiting Benji Marshall, but the half indicated he would either stay in Auckland or hang up his boots.
Johnson and the Warriors teased an announcement on social media, and duly confirmed the news.
Johnson debuted for the club in 2011, helping it to the NRL Grand Final in his first season, but left Mt Smart in 2018, after falling out with coach Stephen Kearney. He played three years at Cronulla Sharks, before returning to the Warriors, but spent 2022 separated from his family, during COVID-19 exile across the Tasman.
Returning to Auckland, Johnson has found new life under new coach Andrew Webster, and the team's improvement to a 10-7 record and sixth on the competition ladder has helped convince him to stay a little longer.
Last week, the club's all-time leading scorer celebrated his 200th appearance for the team, guiding them to their biggest win of the season against Parramatta Eels at Sydney, as he awaits the birth of a second child, with wife and former Silver Ferns netballer Kayla Johnson.
"I'm giving you this phone call from my home," Johnson told AM last month. "I've got my daughter back here who's watching TV and I get to say 'goodnight' to her every night.
"They're things a lot of people take for granted, but when you go without it for a short period like we did last year… it certainly has played a massive role in what you're seeing on the weekend from the 80 minutes from me.
"I'm happy on the field, I'm happy off the field and what we're building at the club is pretty special to be a part of. I think happy is probably the right word."
That contentment is reflected in his decision to stay.
"The way Shaun has gone about his football on and off the field this season has been phenomenal," said Webster. “"His leadership and ambition to get better has been the driving factor in his and our success this season.
"He has gone to a completely new level. He had a brilliant offseason and hasn't slowed down since.
"Everyone can see how happy he is being back home in Auckland and around the club he loves so much. It's terrific knowing he's going to have another season with us in 2024, a huge boost for the club."
Johnson's commitment means the Warriors have filled their 2024 roster, with former captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and half Chanel Harris-Tavita both returning to the ranks.
The club also has plenty of half options, with Johnson, Harris-Tavita, Luke Metcalf, Te Maire Martin and Ronald Volkman all on their books, as well as utility Dylan Walker.
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