This season was looming as Shaun Johnson's chance to really
stamp his mark on the Warriors but that has been delayed by a
troublesome elbow injury and the halfback doesn't know when
he will be back on the field.
Johnson hyper-extended his right elbow in the 16-10 win over
Brisbane in Dunedin last weekend and initial estimates
suggest he would be out of the game for up to a month. He
didn't take part in training this week but hoped he might be
involved next week.
The club haven't ruled him out of playing in the season
opener against Parramatta in Sydney next weekend but he seems
little more than an outside chance.
"I'm taking it day-by-day at the moment," said Johnson, who
is sporting a big compression bandage on his arm. "I have
been told three to four weeks and I'm just sticking with that
at the moment. It feels alright but I have never had an
injury like this. I'm just listening to what [the medical
team] say and trying to do everything I can to get it going
along a bit quicker."
The Warriors are a better side with the 22-year-old on the
park. His form dipped towards the end of last season but he
wasn't alone as the Warriors slumped to a club-record
eight-match NRL losing run - which they will hope to snap
against the Eels.
Coach Matt Elliott has options in the halves if Johnson is
ruled out, with youngster Harry Siejka, utility Pita Godinet
and Feleti Mateo the main contenders to play alongside
five-eighth Thomas Leuluai.
But Johnson's combination with Leuluai will be critical if
the Warriors are to be successful following the departure of
James Maloney to the Roosters.
"I was in a pretty good space [before the injury], I
thought," said Johnson, who played in last month's All Stars
game. "This is only a minor setback and you're going to get
those throughout the year. Hopefully I will get this one out
the way nice and early so there won't be too many more.
"I feel pretty good about the training I have been doing and
where the team is at after last weekend. We played really
well and really turned up for each other on Saturday night.
"This season for me was about just trying to do the basics
really well. Defence is a big thing for me so just tackle
really hard. Get in. Make an effort. Turn up when I have to
The Warriors didn't do a lot of that last season but there is
cautious optimism they will turn around a dreadful 2012 when
they finished 14th on the table with only eight wins in 24
games. What made it difficult to take for fans was the fact
it came a year after their grand final appearance.
Johnson played a significant hand in getting the club there
in 2011 after making his NRL debut midway through the year
and played a starring role against Manly in the grand final
in setting up two tries as they threatened a late comeback.
He's not, however, the rookie any more and that presents its
"I'm not the new kid on the block any more but I still have
that sense of wanting to prove myself and play good footy,"
he said. "I missed that at the back end of last season so it
would be good to get back in the rhythm of things and enjoy
winning games again."
His elbow will have a say when that might be.