Superstar playmaker Shaun Johnson admits he and his reshuffled Warriors backline will take time to click this NRL season.
The Kiwis halfback will start in the unfamiliar role of five eighth against Wests Tigers on Saturday when he returns to first grade, having had his 2015 campaign ruined by a broken ankle.
Cronulla import Jeff Robson will play the halfback role which has been Johnson’s domain, in one of several unexpected selections ahead of their season-opener in Sydney.
Coach Andrew McFadden also raised eyebrows by naming Tuimoala Lolohea – who filled Johnson’s playmaking duties at the end of last season – on the wing, while omitting centre Konrad Hurrell in favour of former Tiger Blake Ayshford.
Johnson told Newshub he had no qualms shuffling out one spot to accommodate the seasoned Robson, 33, who he says is a good fit at the club following a 12-year career spanning stints at the Sharks, Eels and Sea Eagles.
“He’s come and pulled rank I think,” Johnson laughed.
“To be fair, Robbo’s probably more of a No.7, just more of a fit really.
“I haven’t worn No.6 before so I’ll give it a run.”
Johnson doesn’t expect his combination with Robson to be perfect from minute one but believes it has the potential to develop because of the contrasting ways they play.
“He’s a pretty calm, collected player and I guess that allows me to do my thing off the back of that.
“So far so good but we’re going to keep learning and each game we play we’ll get more confident.”
Joining Robson and Ayshford in making a Warriors first grade debut will be interchange forwards Nathaniel Roache and James Gavet, along with high-profile Kiwi international recruits Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke.
Game-breaking former Roosters fullback Tuivasa-Sheck joined Johnson in predicting it will take time for the Warriors to gel.
He says an inconsistent pre-season, which concluded with a near-full strength team being thrashed 46-10 by the Dragons, tells him they have plenty of work to do.
“We’re happy with what we have. Some days it’s going good and we’re loving it, some weeks it’s going bad and our moves are not happening,” he said.
“So it’s about getting that combination and hopefully we can stick to it.”