Get ready for one hell of a homecoming. Even though tonight's NRL match against the Sharks is in Wellington, rather than Mt Smart, there's never been anything like this in the 25-year history of the Warriors.

Having Shaun Johnson among the enemy will be a unique — and perhaps polarising — experience for Warriors' supporters.

Other ex-Warriors have returned to face the Auckland club before, but nobody with Johnson's profile.

The closest was probably James Maloney, who left a void after his departure at the end of his 2012 season, especially as it came soon after the memorable grand final run the year before.


Konrad Hurrell (71 games) was also a fan favourite, while Ben Matulino (212 matches), Jacob Lillyman (188) and Russell Packer (110) carved out long careers in Auckland before moving across the Tasman.

But no one quite like Johnson, who became the face of the club across eight seasons and 163 games.

The Warriors admit it will be strange to see Johnson in the opposition lineup, but insist they aren't preparing any special plans to counteract his threat.

Since his shock departure last November, Cronulla's trip across the Tasman has long been circled in the calendar.

"It's going to feel weird, just seeing him there," admitted Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

"It still feels weird, watching him in the different coloured jersey but that's how it is. As long as he is happy over there in Cronulla."

His presence certainly adds spice to the clash, and extra motivation for both parties.

"He will come out, play with lots of energy, starting against his old team," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "He will have a few places where he will know he can try to run through our line.


He will try to get his team up. It will be interesting. A few boys are going to be running at him so he is going to have some sore shoulders."

Coach Stephen Kearney agreed that while Johnson may still have friends among the playing roster, that all changes once the whistle sounds.

"It's a bit like Kodi [Nikorima's] performance on the weekend," said Kearney. "We are all big boys here, we have a job to do and we have to go out there and execute our job.

"[Shaun] played over 150 games and was an integral part of our footy club, but we have moved forward. He's playing for the opposition this weekend and we have a job to do and so does he. So we just move on."

Moving on has been a theme at the club, from CEO Cameron George down, since Johnson's acrimonious departure, and time has eased the tension.

Asked if there was any bad blood between him and the long time Kiwi, Kearney was succinct.

"No. Not on my part."

But Kearney also admitted he hadn't had any contact with his former protege, aside from one brief catch-up last month when the Kiwis were in camp in Auckland.

"I went and had dinner with them and watched them train a couple of times," said Kearney.

"I said 'hello, how are things going', exchanged the usual pleasantries [with Shaun]."

Johnson is under pressure at the Sharks, after being benched two weeks ago, but Kearney is aware, more than most, of the dangers he can pose.

"We haven't had a big focus on Shaun," said Kearney. "It's just about executing the areas we did really well from last week and looking to improve the areas where we weren't so good. We know the threat that obviously Shaun [has], and not only Shaun but [Matt] Moylan and those kind of guys possess."

Kearney is optimistic that key wing Ken Maumalo will be cleared to take the field in Wellington, after a nasty head clash in the 18-18 draw with Brisbane saw him leave the field midway through the second half.