Some words from Shaun Johnson at the end of last year seem particularly pertinent as another Warriors NRL campaign gets under way.

As he sat in a Carlisle hotel restaurant during the Kiwis Four Nations campaign, the Warriors halfback was asked about his hopes for the 2017 NRL season.

His response was unusual - but to the point.

"The same thing gets printed every year," said Johnson. "Is this the Warriors' year? Maybe no one in the media should ask us if this is our year."

Just let us do our work, and show up in round one and hopefully we have something different there from in the past.


As Johnson espoused, "something different" is vital this year. In fact, it's desperately needed because neither the club, nor the wider game, could handle another failed season at Mt Smart.

The Warriors have to live up to their potential this year, though no one really knows what this club firing on all cylinders looks like, because it has been so long.

That's why there has been an understated buildup to this season, with fatigue from the countless new dawns over the past five years. Remember Owen Glenn and Eric Watson and the "best sporting franchise in Australasia" promise in 2012?

Or Matt Elliott, with his oxygen chambers, core cooling units and war room within the Warriors gym? Then there was the arrival of "franchise changer" Sam Tomkins and the subsequent promise shown under Andrew McFadden in the middle of the 2014 season.

The arrival of Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was supposed to take the Warriors to a new level last year, but there was a familiar crash and burn to end the season.

However, hype has begun to build since Kieran Foran's clearance and off the back of the trial win over the Titans.

Maybe it's actually time. Maybe the Warriors will live up to their name.

"We are ready to go," said prop Jacob Lillyman. "Everyone can't wait to get out there. There is a good feeling in the team and we have prepared well but all that really counts is how we play."

Coach Stephen Kearney has taken a steady, one week at a time approach since he came into the job. He emphasises process, continuous improvement and a collective approach, often refusing to isolate any individuals as more important than others.

But he opened up this week about his expectations of creating a new identity for the Auckland club.

"We have worked really hard on what we want to be and how we want to perform - both with the football and in defence," said Kearney. "I think we have taken some positive steps in the last few trials. I want our members, [and] our fans, when they see us, they will identify 'okay that's how they attack, that's how they defend'. I think we are tracking in the right direction."

That process starts on Sunday. Facing the 2016 wooden spooners at home is the softest possible start, though the Knights have showed some encouraging signs in pre-season.

A win - which would represent their first opening day victory since 2009 - is a non-negotiable. It would be a confidence booster, although won't reveal much about the Warriors' ultimate destiny in 2017. However, the first third of the season will answer many of the questions about this club's ability to compete.

Across that period they face the Storm twice, a trip to Canberra and an away game against their bogey team St George. They'll also play the Bulldogs, Titans, Eels and Roosters, all potential top eight contenders.

"A good start this year is crucial," said Lillyman. "Momentum is important in the NRL and you don't want to be chasing from the start."