Shaun Johnson is in a happy place.
The New Zealand five-eighth, who will be a key figure against Tonga on Saturday, has a spring in his step, and it's not just from the energy and camaraderie of being back in Kiwis camp.
It's a contrast to the last time we saw him in Auckland, last December, as the messy split with the Warriors played out, and with good reason.
The move to Cronulla has started well, despite injury frustrations, and the 28-year-old appears to have a load lifted from his shoulders.
It's understandable, as Johnson has gone from being arguably the face of the Warriors (and the sport) in this country, to just another name in the league metropolis in Sydney. He remains high profile, but there are numerous others of similar stature, split across nine teams.
"I never saw it at the time, but definitely being taken out of that environment I feel a load has been taken off," Johnson told the Herald. "I don't have people peppering me and scrutinising me every week.
"There will always be pressure from myself but that is the only pressure I feel, which is really refreshing. There were times when the outside noise was so much, so much coming down, you did feel it. You were made aware of it. I'd talk to [fiancee] Kayla [Cullen] about it, just us two at home, and I haven't had to have that conversation with her since I've been in Sydney. I'm not sure, that might change, but that is the difference for me."
It's also helped that Johnson couldn't have landed at a more suitable club, apart from perhaps the Storm. Cronulla is one of the smaller clubs in Sydney and tends to be quiet achievers.
"The first thing they made me feel when I walked in there was that you are a cog in this big machine," says Johnson. "This all isn't on you bro. I guess they can do that because they have been successful. I'm not going in there to try to reinvent the wheel for them, I'm going in there to add what I can do to what they have."
When asked about the differences between playing for the Sharks and being at the Warriors, Johnson lists pressure, commitment and expectation.
"The pressure here … it's all I ever knew so I didn't view it as pressure but having that scrutiny on you every week," says Johnson. "One week the Warriors win and everything's terrific, and another week they don't and people are saying 'I can't take this any more'. There's not that at the Sharks; they are playing good footy and they can fly under the radar a bit, outside that real bubble in Sydney."
By commitment, Johnson refers to the number of appearances, promotions and club-related activities, outside the football sphere.
"The volume of stuff we had to do off the field here was all I knew. Going to the Sharks it's half of that."
Johnson enjoys the lifestyle, seeing parallels with the beachside life he knew growing up in Auckland. Fiancee and former Silver Fern Cullen has recently moved across the Tasman and his pet dog will be released from quarantine next week, to join them in their house "across the road" from the club.
Johnson's absence at the Warriors still casts a shadow.
Their attack has lacked potency this year and they have also missed his game management skills at times. His exit was acrimonious but it's not something he dwells on.
"I don't really want to dive into that too much," says Johnson. "I don't need to talk about what happened eight months ago now. It happened. There is no point in talking about how it made me feel or why it happened. It's done now. They've moved on. I've moved on.
"I still watch every single Warriors game. I still talk to the players. I'm still invested in how they do; I want them to do well. Regardless of how it made me feel, that's where I am at now.
"[But I've] definitely moved on. [There's] no point in holding any kind of grudge or ill feeling towards anyone. I play rugby league for a job. When people say it's isn't a job, well it is. I got moved on."
Nevertheless, this week is a novel feeling for Johnson, coming into the Kiwis team as just another Australian-based player, rather than being weighed down by a tough Warriors campaign.
"Every time I've come into this environment, there has always been someone who has said 'he doesn't deserve to be here', or 'he is not playing good enough football'. That's not new to me and whether I think it is warranted, that is irrelevant. I know when I come into this group, I'm a better player for it. There have been games that I haven't been happy how I've played, but other times, some of the best games of my career have been played in this jersey."
That was the case in 2014 and 2015, when Johnson was in the form of his life, an incandescent spark behind a dominant forward pack, and he was also impressive in last year's win over Australia at Mt Smart.
On Saturday, he will be reunited with Benji Marshall, seven years after they last played together, during Johnson's international debut in 2012.
"I remember him pulling me aside early in that week," says Johnson. "I was fizzing, thinking, 'I get to play alongside Benji'. He said 'Bro, calm down. If you want the ball, you call the ball. Don't feel like I am overriding you or anything. You play your game'.
"He made me feel like I deserved to be there, made me feel really equal. That's something I will never forget."
Johnson remains popular on these shores, and Marshall and Johnson were the last to leave the Kiwis' fan day on Tuesday, as they signed one more autograph and posed for one more selfie.
Their combination will be critical on Saturday, with the Kiwis holding an obvious edge in experience across the spine against the Pacific nation.
Johnson, who has scored 11 tries in 29 tests, has only 80 minutes of club football behind him – after nursing a hamstring injury since early April – but is focused.
"I want to have a good week, play really good football this weekend, then go back to Cronulla with a spring in my step and string some games together," he says.
"I'm focused on what I can control, which is repaying the faith Cronulla showed to get me over there."