Shaun Johnson could be out for a month

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 20:53 24/02/2013
Shaun Johnson
Photosport

PIVOTAL: The play of halfback Shaun Johnson will be critical to the NZ Warriors putting a disappointing 2012 campaign behind them this season.

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A rookie playmaker looms as a potential stand-in for Shaun Johnson when the New Zealand Warriors open their NRL campaign at Parramatta on March 9.

The one-test Kiwi halfback's elbow injury is likely to sideline him for up to a month, leaving the new Warriors head coach Matthew Elliott to fill a significant hole in his backline to face the Eels.

Harry Siejka, who was Elliott's first signing when he was appointed to replace Brian McClennan, joined the club as a back-up to Johnson and Thomas Leuluai. He might now receive more early-season game time than he anticipated when transferring from Western Sydney to Auckland in December.

Carlos Tuimavave's broken hand - also sustained during the Warriors 16-10 trial match victory over the Brisbane Broncos in Dunedin on Saturday night - might also work in the 21-year-old's favour although Elliott has the option of playing experienced utility Feleti Mateo in tandem with Leuluai.

Siejka only made his NRL debut in July 2011, shortly after Elliott was sacked, and made four first grade appearances before requesting a release from his contract.

A stand-out player for the Panthers under-20s side, shoulder surgery has limited the former Australian Schoolboys representative to just one game - the Warriors first pre-season hit out against the Gold Coast - since last July.

Siejka was chosen to play the Titans on February 9 because Johnson was involved in the NRL All Stars game the same night in Brisbane. He was not required for the trials against his former club or the Broncos.

Johnson hyper-extended his right elbow while attempting a tackle early in the second half at Forsyth Barr Stadium and was unable to return.

The club said Johnson, 22, had scans on the joint which confirmed he will miss up to a month - a prognosis that prompted him to tweet he was "gutted".

Tuimavave, one of the Warriors new breed of explosive, versatile backs, could be out for up to six weeks.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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