Halfback Shaun Johnson will make his return from injury to captain the Warriors at next weekend's Downer NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park.

Johnson will line up alongside new marquee signing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and fellow new recruits Jeff Robson, Blake Ayshford and Henare Wells, in his first taste of football since recovering from the broken ankle which ruined his 2015 NRL season.

Johnson is pleased to have achieved his goal of being able to play in the tournament that has become synonymous with his name - he was Player of the Tournament in 2014 and been the face of the Nines marketing campaigns over the last three years - and holds no reservations about whether his ankle is ready.

"I'm very happy but it's a goal I set right from the start and I'm just happy I can tick that box," said Johnson.


"I've come back through hard training, working hard, and there's no doubts going into this tournament.

"I feel like I've done the hard work to give myself all the confidence that I can just go in there and play my normal game."

Coach Andrew McFadden's 18-man squad includes senior forwards Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino, and Ryan Hoffman, while rookie front-rowers Albert Vete, Sam Lisone and Charlie Gubb round out their forward stocks.

Dynamic centres Konrad Hurrell and Solomone Kata and Kiwis rookie Tui Lolohea are among the outside backs, together with David Fusitu'a, Jonathan Wright, and Ken Maumalo, while 18-year-old playmaker Ata Hingano will be on debut.

McFadden is excited to be able to include Johnson and is confident there is no undue risk in fielding his key playmaker.

"It's no more risk than what we do at training so I'm pretty happy for him to play," said McFadden.

"He's fit and he's ready to go and there's no more risk than usual."

The absence of Kiwis co-captain Issac Luke should reassure Warriors fans that the club is erring on the side of caution with their player's health, with McFadden unwilling to risk the crafty No9 in the preseason tournament.

"We wanted Issac to play but he's had a couple of mishaps in the last five weeks, a couple of tight niggles, so we just said it's not worth risking," he said.

"Nothing too major but he's had a couple of little niggles that we just don't want to compromise at the start of our season."

The Warriors have thrilled spectators but fallen short of success in the last two nines tournaments (they were beaten semifinalists in 2014 and quarterfinalists last year) and have been dealt a tough draw this year with the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Broncos their opponents in the Hunua pool group.

And while there are huge expectations on them to hit the ground running from the start of the NRL season, McFadden insists he is taking a relaxed approach towards the Nines.

"Although we want to do well it's not going to make or break our season. We're still very focussed on the NRL season but we want to do well.

"There's really only expectation on us so we'll try to have some fun and take as much of that pressure off the players and enjoy the tournament."

Warriors Nines squad:
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 Ryan Hoffman, 3 Jacob Lillyman, 4 David Fusitu'a, 5 Solomone Kata, 6 Tuimoala Lolohea, 7 Shaun Johnson (c), 8 Charlie Gubb, 9 Henare Wells, 10 Konrad Hurrell, 11 Ben Matulino, 12 Ken Maumalo, 13 Jonathan Wright, 14 Jeff Robson, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Blake Ayshford, 17 Albert Vete, 18 Ata Hingano.

2016 Downer NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park - Waitangi weekend February 6 & 7
- All 16 NRL Clubs together in Auckland
- 31 games across two days
- Nine players per team, nine minutes per half
- $2.6 million in prize money
- Over 90,000 fans expected over the weekend