Warriors legend Stacey Jones says the extra work star half Shaun Johnson has put into his defence has transformed his own game and that of the team.
Coach Andrew Webster said the 33-year-old had "been amazing and played the best football of his career" in 2023.
Johnson missed Sunday's 32-6 qualifying final loss to Penrith with a calf injury.
He has been named at No.7 for Saturday night's sold-out elimination final clash with Newcastle at Mt Smart Stadium and will be given every chance to prove his fitness this week.
Johnson has made a career-high 433 tackles this year in 23 games at 19 per match. His 91.9 per cent tackle efficiency rate is stunning.
The 2011 grand finalist's organisational skills and creativity have been first rate but assistant coach and former captain Jones, who was Johnson's idol growing up, said it was his defence that had defined him and the side.
"Shaun has focused on his defence first and foremost and that has made a huge difference to his game and the performance of the team," Jones told AAP.
"His kicking game and smarts around a footy field have always been really good but he has put a lot of time into his effort areas defensively. He will kick the ball and chase hard ... every time.
"He will get out of marker and put immense pressure on. He is constantly bringing himself into the game with his resolve.
"Shaun is doing it all the time now and that is giving him confidence and everyone around him."
Webster has made the point that even if Johnson is not available against the Knights his team can still get the job done.
The Warriors' regular-season achievements, where they finished fourth, was a squad effort.
This year they conceded just 18.6 points per game after leaking 29.2 each match last year to finish 15th.
Johnson has been at the forefront.
"We have been able to build a really reliable game around Shaun that puts pressure on the opposition and asks a lot of questions," Webster told AAP.
"The best part has without doubt been his defence. That's his kick-chase, his marker work and tackling all-round. The boys get a lot of energy when he does that and it has filtered through the whole side.
"Shaun wanted to be ambitious and go after improvements in his game and has succeeded because of how hard he has wanted to work. Off the field he is back home and happy."
After a difficult year in Redcliffe away from his family last year Johnson has signed a one-year extension for 2024.
Warriors CEO Cameron George said the club were delighted to have him on board.
"Shaun wants to succeed for the fans and for the club ... because he is all about our footy club and hungry to deliver," George told AAP.
"This year he has become a complete person and footballer. He is such a great human."