Jazz Tevaga celebrated with Shaun Johnson in Auckland after the Kiwis great agreed to return to the Warriors but he has a personal score to settle with the Cronulla star on Sunday.
The pair are close mates off the field but fierce rivals on it and when the Sharks beat the Warriors 46-10 at Central Coast Stadium last July Johnson let Tevaga know about it. Tevaga has been wanting to get square since that day.
Believing he was about to do so in the return match last September after the Warriors took a 14-12 lead, Tevaga made a beeline for Johnson to let him know the Sharks were about to lose – only for Cronulla to score two tries in the last four minutes and snatch a 22-14 victory.
Tevaga knows he may not get another chance to have the last laugh over Johnson after Sunday’s match against the Sharks at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
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"Last year when we played Sharks at Gosford, he scored a try and he started screaming at us," Tevaga said. "We played them again towards the back end of the year and when we scored, I ran up to him and I patted his head.
"They then scored with two minutes to go, and I was down on my haunches, and he came up to me and patted me on the head and was just like, 'come on, bro'.
"I learned my lesson from that so when I caught up with him back at home the other week, I said 'bro, you don’t have to play us. Just say your hammy is tight or something'. But he was like, 'no'.
"We won’t get too many of these battles anymore, so I am keen to play him. It’s always fun going up against your mates but I’m going to try not to hurt him because we need him for next year."
Tevaga, who recently re-signed with the Warriors for a further two years, revealed how he had been meant to go out for lunch with Peter Leitch, better known as the Mad Butcher, and Johnson while they were in Auckland during the NRL’s stand-alone representative weekend.
When the Warriors utility was unable to attend, Johnson phoned to tell him he had also signed with the club until the end of the 2023 season.
"I was like 'happy days', and I caught up with him that night for a few beers and we celebrated," Tevaga said.
“I had seen him at the airport, and I was telling him, 'come home bro, we need a halfback'. He said, 'oh bro, I don’t think it will happen'. Then he called me and said 'I wanted to tell you in person that I am coming home'.
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“Hopefully we can get one over him on Sunday because it pissed me off last year. He hasn’t let me forget it so I will be keen to get a win against him.”
After losing 19-18 to St George Illawarra in extra time last weekend, the Warriors need to return to start winning games if they are going to make the finals.
With Matt Lodge this week joining Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Chad Townsend and Reece Walsh as mid-season recruits, the Warriors are building a strong roster but have lost their last four matches.
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"Every game from now is a must-win," Tevaga said. "There aren’t too many chances that we have left, we know that. It doesn’t matter how we win, we have just got to win.
"You look at every game, bar the Storm and Roosters games, we have put ourselves in a position to win but we still haven’t learned how to finish games off and win games.
"I think we have got two games against top eight teams – Penrith and the Rabbitohs – but every other game we should [expect to] win.
"We haven’t talked about it, but we all know that we are in a position we would rather not be and every game we play we have to try to win."