Stat Attack: Johnson v Benji battle reignites
There are plenty of mouth-watering match ups this Saturday when the New Zealand Warriors take on the Wests Tigers in Auckland, but non quite as captivating as the battle in the halves.
Shaun Johnson will be up against his childhood idol, Benji Marshall, and the apprentice has the edge over the master in head-to-head clashes.
Both players are Golden Boot winners, leaders of their respective clubs and stars who have carved a career out of their ability to set a game alight with hot stepping and off-the-cuff play.
Johnson has long said Marshall was the player he grew up watching and credited the 2005 grand final winner for changing the way Kiwis play the game through his footwork, skill and overall flair.
Saturday will be the sixth time the Kiwi pair have faced off, with Johnson holding bragging rights with a 4-2 record.
In fact, when they have faced off, the Warriors' No.7 has the wood over his senior counterpart in almost all categories.
However the 2018 version of Marshall is arguably close to career-best form and he will return to Mt Smart Stadium for the second time this season full of confidence, having led the Tigers to a 11-10 win over Melbourne there in round five. Marshall hit the winning field goal in that fixture.
Johnson has been named to start this week having missed two games with a leg injury, including last week's 50-10 Anzac Day thumping at the hands of the Storm.
The 27-year-old said his side had already put that performance behind them and the focus was now on the Tigers and their red-hot halves.
"It's important to bounce back after that, and that feeling of winning and playing well at home is what we strive for," he said.
"We prepare for it as a team and try not to look at any one-on-one battles too much but both (Tigers halves) are playing some really good footy.
"They are taking the line on which is always scary so as a team we have a big job on our hands but me and Greeny (Blake Green) are just focused on getting our boys around the park. I think it's going to be a really good match-up and hopefully we get a big crowd out there to really enjoy it."
Warriors forward Adam Blair has enjoyed watching Marshall's resurgence and wouldn't be surprised if the veteran five-eighth gets a Test recall.
"Benji is back to playing some really calm, good footy at the moment," Blair said.
"He's giving himself every chance to get back in that Kiwis side and he's never said no to the jersey so if he's in the right frame of mind, keen and playing decent footy I don't see why not."
Six of the Wests Tigers' eight games this season have been decided by two points or less and Blair said the Warriors know they will have to be in the contest for the full 80 minutes to get the result.