Warriors star Shaun Johnson is brimming with excitement at the prospect of playing an NRL season opener at Mt Smart Stadium for the first time in his career.
Johnson revealed to Radio Sport Breakfast this morning that when the Penrose-based side kick-off their 2017 campaign against the Newcastle Knights on March 5, the match against the wooden spooner's of 2016 will be the first time ever he will have opened an NRL season at the Warriors' home ground.
"This is the first round one game I've played at Mt Smart since I've come into the NRL," Johnson told Kent Johns, Nathan Rarere and Marc Pared.
"It's been a long time coming, and hopefully we can justify all that and reward them with a good performance [in] round one."
Despite having played in the NRL since mid-2011, every season-opening match the 26-year-old has taken part in has either been played at Eden Park, or in various locations across Australia.
The last time the side opened the season at Mt Smart was in 2009, a 26-18 victory over the Parramatta Eels.
"I've played a [season-opening] game at Eden Park, that was in 2012, but since then I think we've played all our round one games in Australia."
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The Warriors have a favourable run of matches to begin the NRL season, with five of their first six matches being played within New Zealand.
Following their opening match against the Knights, the Warriors host the Storm, Titans and Eels at Mt Smart, while an 'away' fixture in round three against the Bulldogs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin gifts Johnson and his teammates an enviable opportunity to form an early sequence of good results.
"I think the start of your season sets you up for the back end where you don't want to be chasing games, which is a position we've found ourselves in too many times," said Johnson.
"We can clock a few [wins] in these first few rounds, especially being at home, being in New Zealand.
"It doesn't matter if we're down in the south, that's still home for us, we've still got our fans there, so a good start is key."