Shaun Johnson set to tackle poor options

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2014
Shaun Johnson
Photosport
FIT AGAIN: After a three-match layoff with a groin injury, playmaker Shaun Johnson is back in the Warriors side for their match against the Newcastle Knights this afternoon.

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Watching from the stands for the past three weeks has given Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson a different perspective.

And, as the team heads into today's match against the Knights, in Newcastle, he says it was a good experience to feel the highs and lows that fans go through watching the side and to analyse mistakes that aren't so easy to see on the field.

The Warriors had poor last tackle options in their dour 16-12 win against the Sharks and will need to rectify that against the Knights. They will also need to shut down the number of offloads made by the free-flowing Knights.

"I thought our set finishes, especially in that second half [against the Sharks] and even [Thursday] at training, we didn't do that well. We need to get that right if we want to build any sort of pressure on any side. I probably saw the real importance of that from the sideline."

Johnson, who was out with a groin injury, said he could have returned last weekend but was wary of re-aggravating an injury which can take time to heal.

"I was just trying to make sure I was right. We have got some pretty big games coming up and I didn't want to go out on the field and last only five minutes and have no confidence in what I am doing. It was about getting it right and not just for a game, for long term."

Chad Townsend is expected to keep the goal kicking duties for this afternoon's game but Johnson will be fully involved in tactical kicking.

"That's one of the biggest aspects of my position - our last plays and I certainly wouldn't be playing if I couldn't kick the ball."

Johnson's return should provide a big boost to the Warriors who have a vastly different starting team to last week's. The other major changes see Thomas Leuluai running on at hooker and Ben Matulino starting in the back row. Ben Henry will also start at centre after a possibly season-ending injury to Dane Nielsen. Konrad Hurrell is still recovering from a hamstring strain.

The Knights sit 14th on table and the Warriors were sixth coming into the round. However, with two good recent wins, the Knights should be high on confidence.

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said he was well aware his side was in for a tough game.

"[The Knights] have still got plenty to play for. They are professionals and it is their home ground so we expect a very hard game," he said.

"Obviously, it's a big test and it's an important game. Newcastle have still got a lot of quality and a lot of experience and, obviously, they have got a very experienced coach who knows how to get them up, so we have got to prepare. We need to win."

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Johnson agreed.

"The position they are in - probably out of contention for the finals - there's still a lot of pride to play for and we saw what they did last weekend against the Storm. We are in no position where we can think we can go over there and it is job done. We have just got to put our best foot forward, prepare right and show the right attitude."

- Sunday News

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