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No more upheaval, no more excuses for settled Warriors

They have been nomads for the past two seasons but the Warriors have made a home in Redcliffe and are determined to ride that new found stability all the way to the finals.

After playing eight 'home' games at Central Coast Stadium in 2020 and another seven there to start 2021, the Warriors shifted to Queensland last July along with all nine Sydney-based teams and the Raiders and Knights.

They played home games in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Redcliffe and Mackay to round out a testing campaign before CEO Cameron George announced in September that the club had agreed to make Redcliffe their temporary base in 2022.

Having not played in front of the Mt Smart Stadium faithful since August 2019, the Warriors have put a big red circle around June 18, the day they are scheduled to make a triumphant return to Auckland to host premiers Penrith.

In the meantime, they are calling Redcliffe's Moreton Daily Stadium home and after two years of uncertainty and upheaval, that's a huge positive for Kodi Nikorima and his team-mates.

"The last couple of years everyone has spoken about how much we have sacrificed but this year we are all settled and there will be no excuses," Nikorima told media on Thursday.

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"Once the CEO committed to us being here that was better for our families and everyone found a home so there are no complaints.

"It's awesome to be back in a house. Resorts are OK for a couple of months but you are in each other’s pocket all the time.

"This feels like home away from home but it's great that the date is set for that first game back at Mt Smart.

"Our fans haven’t seen us in person since 2019 so we want to try to get that connection back with them. It would be awesome to be back in those changing sheds and back with our staff who weren’t able to come over here."

A rousing reception is guaranteed for every Warrior come June 18 but the loudest cheer may be reserved for prodigal son Shaun Johnson, who has returned to the club where he launched his career a decade ago.

After bursting onto the scene as a 20-year-old and helping the Warriors to the 2011 decider, Johnson went on to play 162 games before crossing the Tasman to the Sharks in 2019.

Now 31 and with a wealth of knowledge to impart on the youthful Warriors, Johnson's return is seen as a game changer for a side that has tasted finals action just once since losing the 2011 grand final to Manly.

"Shaun is loving being back in a Warriors jersey and everyone is feeding off him," said Nikorima, who played alongside Johnson for the Kiwis at the 2017 World Cup.

"He is good with his voice and he is going to be very good for our younger boys. His career speaks for itself. 

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"Shaun has changed his game a lot since he first came on the scene and was doing a lot of the flashy stuff. He still has the flick passes and the running game but he's become a modern halfback and his calmness and experience will help us to get home in tight games."

Nikorima's utility value has been both a blessing and a curse throughout his 140-game career and he would love nothing better than to nail down a spot in the halves alongside Johnson.

"I always start pre-season wanting to be in the halves but I’ll put the team first and play wherever needed," he said.

Ash Taylor has impressed Warriors coach Nathan Brown with his commitment.
Ash Taylor has impressed Warriors coach Nathan Brown with his commitment.

"I don't like bouncing around from spot to spot but I've become accustomed to it.

"I want to win games and having Shaun back will help us do that. All the good clubs have competition for spots and you can't come in thinking you have a position cemented."

Another man putting his hand up for a halves berth is former Titan Ash Taylor, who has signed a one-year contract for 2022 after joining the club on a train and trial basis.

"Ash came to us under similar circumstances to when he first went to the Gold Coast," coach Nathan Brown on Thursday.

"He was a bit of an unknown and played some great footy under Neil Henry and was rewarded with a big contract which brings a lot of pressure to live up to that money.

"He's on a smaller deal now and he doesn’t feel the same pressure that has been coming his way where people were judging him for what he earned rather than how he was playing.

"Ash is conducting himself well and fitting in well with the boys. I'm confident he can have a positive influence on the club."