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Warriors star Shaun Johnson broke his ankle in the Round 20 NRL Telstra Premiership clash with Manly.

From the 26th minute onwards in the Warriors' NRL Telstra Premiership clash with the Sea Eagles it was all anyone could talk about.

Some in the press box even labelled it as one of the worst things to happen in the New Zealand club's history, and at fulltime coach Andrew McFadden's demeanour suggested that may be true.

Star Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson's season is over after he suffered a serious ankle injury while scoring a try in the 32-12 loss to Manly.

And replacing him won't be hard, it will be impossible.

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Almost always among the top two performers whenever the Warriors win, Johnson scores more points, sets up and makes more line breaks, and creates more tries than any other member of the Kiwi side.

While his teammates put on a brave front immediately after the news was confirmed, insisting they would get on with the job this season regardless, Manly coach Geoff Toovey summed up just how big the loss of the 2014 Golden Boot will be.

"Massive, yeah I think it was a big loss for them," Toovey said, while former teammate-turned-Manly star Feleti Mateo said Johnson leaving the field had been a turning point in the contest on Saturday night at Mount Smart Stadium.

"To see Shaun go down early, it's hard to see because he's a close friend of mine, but for us it was good to not have him out there with his twinkle toes causing havoc for us," Mateo told

"I think with that try he scored he really showed just what he can do. 

"For us without him there, Tui [Lolohea] had a really big job to steer that edge around, and I thought we did well defensively there."

With six games remaining in the regular season life without Johnson leaves the Warriors facing an uphill battle to qualify for the finals.

After the game hooker Nathan Friend was unsure who would step up to take the No.7 jersey, with Lolohea, Sam Tomkins and former Holden Cup playmaker Mason Lino the likely candidates.

"I'm not quite sure who Andrew [McFadden] has in mind to go in the halves, whether he keeps Tui or brings someone up, but we just need to move forward," Friend said.

"We have trained all season with people in different positions. We all know the game plan, we just have to try and execute it out there on the field.

"It is [about] people realising we are not a one-man band, we have other people who can take the field in that position.

"Fingers crossed it all goes well for [Shaun]."

Johnson has missed just six of a possible 107 Warriors games since debuting against the Roosters in Round 13, 2011, and has played in every match for the NZ side this year.

Assessing Johnson's replacement options

Tuimoala Lolohea: The most likely candidate given he has been in the squad all year and played in the halves at Holden Cup level. The team could easily cover his current spot at wing or centre with the likes of Ken Maumalo and Konrad Hurrell. But Lolohea has little experience guiding an NRL side around the park, with just 19 Telstra Premiership appearances to date, mostly coming in the outside backs.

Sam Tomkins: A logical replacement if McFadden opts for an experienced set of hands, Tomkins played in the halves early in his career at Wigan, and at Test level for England. Possesses all the necessary ball-playing skills, and would likely have no issues pushing up into a playmaking role, given he has often chimed in to help Johnson and Chad Townsend over the past two seasons.

Mason Lino: The halfback in last year's Holden Cup winning Junior Warriors side, Lino was initially released by the club ahead of this season to go and play in France, before a shoulder injury saw the deal fall through. Has played most of the year at halfback for the club's NSW Cup side, but Andrew McFadden would be unlikely to blood a player with no NRL experience as some pressure-cooker games await in the run to the finals.




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