While Shaun Johnson's 2023 form has seen a marked change from the player who initially lit up the NRL more than a decade ago, the Warriors' 30-8 victory over the Dolphins saw the veteran half return to his old ways.

At the newly named Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, Johnson, 32, steered his team to victory against the competition newcomer, scoring two tries and kicking five conversions from five attempts in the starring role.

The 'how' was just as important as 'how many', as both tries came from footwork that made him a defender's nightmare, when he first burst onto the scene in 2011.

As well as his scoring, Johnson ran 127 metres, broke the line twice, kicked 378 metres and made 27 tackles.

During the Warriors' homecoming from spending three COVID-19 seasons in Australia, his form has been nothing short of outstanding.

Living in and playing in New Zealand again, after a stint with Cronulla Sharks, has been the lift Johnson needed, hoping his career can come full circle back at Mt Smart.

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett isn't surprised by Johnson's performances, as he reaps the rewards of a positive environment put together by the club under Andrew Webster.

"He's been a long time in the NRL," said Bennett. "He's always been a quality player.

"Time's running out for him, but he'd know that. He's always been a Warrior - he started here and came back here to finish career.

"I don't think he'd come back here to fail. Sometimes you've got to look at more than just their performances - why they're performing well or why they're performing badly.

"He's obviously in a happy environment here right now. He's enjoying his footy, so it's easy for him to come and play.

"It's when you're in a place that you're not happy, the club's not working the way it should... I think Shaun's been in a number of those places over a long period of time."

Into the final year of his current Warriors deal, Johnson's displays will go a long way to convincing the club's top brass he deserves to stay, despite reinforcements arriving in 2024.

He has already stated he doesn't want to play anywhere else, turning down a multi-million dollar deal to switch to Wests Tigers, but as he considers a new deal in Auckland, Johnson's throwback against the Dolphins was music to coach Webster's ears.

"He was unbelievable, I thought he was great," said Webster. "I thought he was just composed.

"Wayde's [Egan] deception around the ruck helped him as well. After halftime, he came out and ran the football.

"The try was the icing [on the cake], but there was so many other things about Shaun's game that were good leading up to that moment.

"That's what excited me."

Join Newshub at 8pm Friday for live updates of the Warriors v Canberra Raiders NRL clash

2023-06-03T21:20:12Z dg43tfdfdgfd