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Warriors winger Ken Maumalo.

Led by the freakish Shaun Johnson, the flamboyant Warriors were the must-watch team throughout the NRL Auckland Nines and finished runners-up in 2016.

But the New Zealand club won't have Johnson's brilliance or the home ground advantage when the modified format returns at club level after a two-year hiatus on February 14-15 at HBF Park in Perth.

While conceding Johnson is irreplaceable - dubbing the now-Cronulla five-eighth the "King of Nines" - star Warriors winger Ken Maumalo believes the pressure will be eased on his side.

"Being in Aussie, I think it will lean more towards their teams and less our team because we're not hosting it anymore," he told

Having come on board midway through last season to fill the Johnson-shaped halves hole, Kodi Nikorima is looming as a key Nines cog for the Warriors (assuming he's picked).

NRL Nines the next step in growing national game

Maumalo backed Nikorima to do a great job but he doesn't expect the 15-time Kiwis player to replicate the stunning feats of his predecessor.

"He can definitely pull a bit of magic but probably not as good as Shauny... As you all saw at the World Cup 9s, it was just a [Johnson] masterclass," Maumalo said.

Captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be central to the Warriors' Nines hopes if selected; likewise the metre-eating Maumalo, who shone for New Zealand at the World Cup 9s in October.               

Calf tightness kept Maumalo from playing in the final versus Australia (the Kiwis lost 24-10) but he still bagged five tries in four games.

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"It was my first World Cup and it was good to get out there and experience it," the 25-year-old said.

"It was probably faster than expected, the lungs were screaming, but I got the hang of it and it was all good, I really enjoyed it."

Maumalo has good memories of the Auckland Nines - he debuted for the Warriors in the tournament's second edition in 2015 and featured again the next year.

One thing that still stands out is the involvement of the crowd.

"It was just so hectic and loud every time we'd come out for warm-up and run out for the game," Maumalo said. "It was just an atmosphere that was probably up there for one of the best."

The 2019 Dally M Winger of the Year scored a team-high 17 tries and ran for the most post-contact metres in the NRL despite the Warriors missing the finals.

"I've had the time to reflect - I went to Fiji and I sat down with my family and had a little chat about how my year went and everything sunk in," Maumalo said.

"It was obviously a massive year and getting the award at the end of the year was the icing on the cake, but I sat down and wrote down some goals that I want to work on next year.

"[They're] the same goals I had this year – to represent New Zealand ... to play consistent footy for the Warriors and the ultimate one is just to be the best defensive winger, the best winger in the competition."


Official NRL Travel packages, including NRL Nines tickets, accommodation options and exclusive experiences with NRL Legends can be purchased via

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