ZB

'I haven't felt that in a long time': Warriors make 'emotional' return to Mt Smart

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 Jun 2022, 2:53pm

'I haven't felt that in a long time': Warriors make 'emotional' return to Mt Smart

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 Jun 2022, 2:53pm

Shaun Johnson couldn't find the words to describe the feeling of returning to Mount Smart.

After more than two and a half seasons in Australia, the Warriors returned home on Monday evening and were welcomed to Mount Smart Stadium with a pōwhiri on Tuesday morning, ahead of a sellout homecoming clash against the Wests Tigers on Sunday.

Johnson said it was a special moment for the players.

"It's been a long time obviously for a lot of the boys. This year's been a little bit indifferent so to be home and feel like where you belong, it's sort of a feeling I can't really describe.”

"Coming back, you weren't sure how you'd be received, especially after the last couple months. But the feel around town, people in the shopping centres, wherever I've been, they're just so excited to have us back.

"So I've certainly felt the love already and I know the boys are going to get to experience that this weekend heading into the game."

Warriors' pōwhiri welcome at Mount Smart Stadium. Photo / Photosport

Warriors' pōwhiri welcome at Mount Smart Stadium. Photo / Photosport

It was an extra special occasion for Johnson, who returned to the Warriors this year after spending eight years of his career at the club from 2011-2018.

"When I left in 2018, this part of me was over at that point. I never thought I would be able to walk through Mount Smart again and see the faces I was used to seeing for the eight years I was here. It was pretty emotional.

"Even driving from the path from my house to Mount Smart, I called my dad and said 'dad, I'm doing it again'. It's stuff that people just don't understand, when you care about a place as much as a lot of us do. To see those familiar faces still working in the office and seeing the emotion on their face, giving them big hugs, I haven't felt that in a long time."

Shaun Johnson and Mark 'Mahi Man' Dekker embrace. Photo / Photosport

Shaun Johnson and Mark 'Mahi Man' Dekker embrace. Photo / Photosport

Teammate Tohu Harris admitted the performances haven't been up to par this season but hoped playing in front of the home crowd will give the team extra motivation on Sunday.

"We know that we haven't performed as well as we would've liked, through different reasons. Our effort is one of them. We've got to show that we put in everything we can out on the field and make the fans proud."

The Warriors have three more home games this season after Sunday's fixture.