No panic for Johnson but reality check hits Warriors
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson feels the weight of New Zealand behind him with every decision he makes on the paddock.
So when things go pear-shaped in a game the Warriors were expected to win, like Friday night's clash with the under-strength Panthers, there are two ways to look at it.
The side-stepping halfback naturally remains positive, having been in the same position several times before, but in reality he knows the view from the outside world could be to write off the Warriors' chances after what had been a strong start to the season.
"It's probably a reality check for all of us," Johnson told NRL.com.
"The season has been cruising along nicely so far and we found out a few hard truths.
"We can't look too much into the loss, we've got to get home and worry about fixing what we can get right next week. We've got to find the lessons in it."
The Warriors face a challenging month ahead with clashes against top-eight sides Brisbane, Melbourne and St George Illawarra.
It is likely to prove a season-defining period for the club, who have not played in the finals since their runners-up campaign in 2011.
After losing hard-running forwards Tohu Harris and Bunty Afoa to long-term injuries last week, their mission of remaining in the top eight is of the highest priority – and if 28 points is enough to achieve that, they'll need at least three victories in their final eight games.
The 27-year-old pointed out the importance of a forward pack getting on top of the opposition, something Panthers rookie halfback Jarome Luai took advantage of on Friday night.
"We knew he was going to have a crack with a few players out. He took his opportunity didn't he?" Johnson said.
"I thought his forwards did a decent job giving him some ruck speed for him to get on the front foot and come at us.
"For halves that's what it's all about and we couldn't do that to give our halves and runners any room to move. Their line speed was very good."
Johnson's own season has been a mixed bag since returning from a leg injury that has limited the star halfback to just nine appearances in 2018.
"I've got a bit of a clouded judgement coming off the loss but feel like I'm travelling alright," he said.
"A fortnight ago we picked up two wins and I was feeling good. The last two weeks have been disappointing.
"I've got to do just as much, if not more, as do the rest of the team. I've learned to take my time and pick my moments. That combination with Blake [Green] is still coming together.
"We're not far off as a side and looking forward to see what the rest of the season hold, only we can control it."