Johnson won’t risk NRL to play Nines

Shaun Johnson is tracking well to make next month’s Auckland Nines, but the Warriors playmaker isn’t about to put his NRL season at risk as he continues his comeback from serious injury.

Johnson hasn’t played since breaking his ankle in July last year, and is just a week into contact work at Warriors training.

“I don’t want people to get the idea that I’m putting everything into the Nines,” Johnson said.

“We’ve got a long season ahead, and that’s still the priority. If I’m not feeling right for it, if I’ve got any doubt in my head, I won’t be playing.

“I’m not going to be silly about it.”

Coach Andrew McFadden has yet to name his squad for the tournament at Eden Park on February 6-7, but Johnson admitted he’d be disappointed to miss out.

“I would be gutted, because that’s the target I set for myself when I first did the injury.

“It’s a real goal of mine to play in the Nines because it’s a tournament I love being part of, and it’s important having it in Auckland that the Warriors do well.”

McFadden says he’s keen to give Johnson and new signings Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck game time at the Nines.

“It’s a possibility – there’s no doubt that if they’re fit, I’d certainly like to play them. We’ll wait and see, but all three are tracking very nicely.”

McFadden said the NRL season was still his overriding priority, although a good performance at the Nines was important.

“I’d like to do well and we’ll put out a strong side, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of our season.”

Although the Warriors’ focus had been heavily skewed to defence pre-Christmas, McFadden said they were working on amalgamating hooker Luke and fullback Tuivasa-Sheck into a new-look attack.

“There’ll certainly be some subtle changes to the way we play,” he said.

“Particularly having someone like Issac probably has a big impact with the quality of his dummy-half work.

“We potentially can be a bit more creative around there, and Roger’s got a different style to the way Sam (Tomkins) played last year, so we’ll definitely change up a little bit.”

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