Johnson: Nines the test I needed
Despite his side falling short of their ultimate goal at the 2016 Downer NRL Auckland Nines, Warriors skipper Shaun Johnson said the two-day tournament was exactly what he needed.
Playing his first games since coming off a broken ankle sustained in Round 20 last year, Johnson was among the best players at Eden Park, being named in the team of the tournament and leading the New Zealand side to the final where they eventually went down 22-4 to the Eels.
Despite sending Warriors fans into a temporary panic when he limped off with an injury in the decider – later confirmed as a minor cork – Johnson got through the tournament unscathed, completing what he considers the final step in his recovery ahead of season 2016.
"I was nervous before that first game – Cappy (coach Andrew McFadden) saw me and I didn't really know what to do – to get through the weekend, get tackled, get tackled around the legs at full speed, it's little things and those are probably the final stages of my recovery," Johnson said.
"I feel going into training the next week, going into trials the week after, going into Round 1 that I am ready now, this tournament gave me a good opportunity to see where I was at and I am pretty happy.
"I don't know what the plans are (for the upcoming trials)... but it's just a cork."
Across six games Johnson ran for 193 metres, directing traffic well on both sides of the field for the host team.
His last-minute try against Broncos was responsible for getting the Warriors through to the quarter finals and was also among the best pieces of individual play seen across the weekend.
While happy from a personal point of view, Johnson lamented his side's performance in the final where they failed to match the Eels in defence or attack.
"I am disappointed, we wanted to win it and we had a chance to and that hurts," Johnson said.
"We had a chance and we put ourselves in position but we just didn't have it.
"They started hot and we couldn't go with them. It's small margins in a game like this, a couple of opportunist tries and when you are on your last legs on the second day it's hard to claw those back."
Meanwhile coach McFadden took time to commend the efforts of his younger players.
"There is a lot of excitement for those young kids and it goes over two days and it's up and it's down, so it takes a fair bit out," McFadden said.
"But it's a great experience for them and I just think you can't buy that experience for your young kids.
"I thought young Nate Roache was outstanding, he certainly showed me a lot. I was excited when I could pick him and he certainly didn't let the side down, he was terrific and I think he is going to have a big season."