Warriors look past Johnson loss
If the Warriors are to push on and book a place in the NRL Telstra Premiership finals, they will have to defy a history of struggles in games without Shaun Johnson in their side.
Scans this week revealed Johnson ruptured the PCL in his left knee in last week's 34-22 loss to the Penrith Panthers, and he is expected to be out for six to eight weeks.
While it's significantly better news than the initial suggestions of a torn ACL, a look back at the 12 games the 26-year-old has missed for the Warriors since his NRL debut in Round 13 of 2011 shows the club have lost all but two of them.
Most recently that included a six-game losing streak to end the 2015 season, which saw the Warriors fall out of play-off contention in limp fashion.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney this week did his best to downplay Johnson's absence, and insisted little would change in terms of their game plan with Mason Lino in the No.7 jersey.
"Shaun brings what Shaun's skillset is to the game. Mason is a lot different, but in terms of the game plan, we try and keep it pretty similar right throughout the club so everyone understands what we are working towards," Kearney said.
"Everyone understands the challenge that we have ahead of us this weekend, and I am really excited by it."
The call for resilience through the remainder of the season had clearly got through to the playing group as well, with young back-rower Bunty Afoa telling NRL.com it was a challenge his side were ready to embrace.
"All of us understand that we all have to believe in each other, we all believe that 'Foz' (Kieran Foran) and Mason [Lino] will do the job." Afoa said.
"We will acknowledge that Shaun isn't there and we will embrace it, because that's footy, you get injuries like this, I'm only in the squad myself because of an injury to Ryan Hoffman.
"You lose senior players sometimes and then you see a younger player stepping up."
Meanwhile Johnson, who was walking without crutches at training on Wednesday, discussed the whirlwind of emotions he had gone through over the past weekend, after initially being convinced that he had torn his ACL, only to receive the much better news on Monday.
It means Johnson could potentially be fit for the club's final-round clash against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, while Kiwis coach David Kidwell will also be breathing a sigh of relief, with the 2014 Golden Boot winner likely to be available for the start of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
"She was a pretty sombre weekend," Johnson said.
"It was a pretty surreal situation to be in… I was probably in shock more than anything, I didn't really know what had happened.
"I thought it was something bad, just because of the way it happened… doing all the tests and that, they said it was a classic sort of ACL mechanism and the way the knee was moving.
"I am just glad they got it wrong.
"I guess on a personal level it's very, very pleasing. I am just so happy I hopefully get to play a game of footy again this year."