Shaun Johnson considered missing this year's Auckland Nines tournament, due to his determination to make the best possible start to the NRL season.

The Warriors halfback will be lining up at Eden Park on Saturday, but has committed to playing fewer minutes in the tournament to reduce the physical toll.

Johnson has become the face of the Nines and it would be hard to imagine an event without him.

It's tailor made for his skills and most of the crowd will be coming to see him play, even ahead of first time participants like Johnathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne.


As the hometown hero Johnson is almost compelled to play, but the 26-year-old is conscious that Nines heroics haven't translated into March magic in the past three years.

"It definitely did cross my mind for sure," said Johnson, when asked if he contemplated sidestepping the festival weekend.

"In the past I haven't started the season as well as I have expected for myself and I really want to change that. I don't want to burn out. I want to be feeling good going into next week's trial and the season."

But Johnson is also conscious of the event's wider importance.

"For me it is so hard because as a kid I dreamt [about] having a tournament here like this," said Johnson.

"This is such a key moment in growing the sport in New Zealand [so] for me just to pull out of it and worry about other things [would be difficult]."

"I want to be there, be a part of showing rugby league in a positive light. I know there [would] be kids disappointed if I didn't play and they make the game what it is."

It's a tough call.


Johnson and the Warriors need a successful season - and more than anything a good start in March and April - and that needs to be the priority above all else.

That's why, year after year, the likes of Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk have missed the Nines, as they aim to peak for round one.

Johnson doesn't really have that option - as the star of the host team - but will make concessions around his game time.

"I've had a few chats with the coaching staff and definitely my minutes are going to be reduced," said Johnson.

"I probably haven't helped that in the past to be fair; I'm so competitive I want to be out there all of the time. I've had a good crack at it but [last year] obviously took a knock which had a bit of an effect on how my season went. I want to have a good NRL season - it's a long year - so definitely my minutes are going to be restricted."

Johnson needs to learn to let go this weekend.

In the past three tournaments he has felt personal responsibility to get the team across the line.

It means he has played more minutes than probably any other Warriors player, which has had a rebound effect in subsequent weeks.

"Physically it's intense," said Johnson. "It's a tough couple of days [and] is physically draining."

Johnson has often delivered on the Nines stage - remember the freakish try against the Broncos last year which saved the Warriors from their earliest ever exit - but can't be expected to do it all.

The team has to get over their play making reliance on Johnson, and this weekend will be an opportunity for Tui Lolohea, Ata Hingano and Mason Lino to show their wares.

Johnson also said there was "no real update" on his contract situation.

"We are talking with them and we will see how it goes," said Johnson, who is contracted until the end of this season.