Shaun Johnson's absence should prompt Kieran Foran's emergence

Kieran Foran still has time to shape the Warriors in his image.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Kieran Foran still has time to shape the Warriors in his image.

OPINION: Forgive me. I wrote, perhaps with a hint of sarcasm, that the Warriors would be fourth in the NRL by now.

Instead the State of Origin period - for so long the club's greatest source of competition points - has passed without the Warriors even being able to crack the top-eight. Friday's 34-22 loss to Penrith leaves the Warriors eleventh with the Cowboys, Sharks, Knights, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles and Tigers left to play.

Let's dwell on the Panthers result. No-one likes to see people get injured so what happened to Shaun Johnson was a shame.

Shaun Johnson wasn't leading his side to the playoffs.
RENEE MCKAY/PHOTOSPORT

Shaun Johnson wasn't leading his side to the playoffs.

But, with the best will in the world, the halfback was taking the Warriors nowhere this year. Johnson's talent is not in question, but it's not yielding the results you'd expect from a player of his standing and seven-figure contract extension.

If Johnson's season is over, then it's not too late for Kieran Foran to try and mould the team in his image. If they can play straight and play tough, then sneaking into the playoffs isn't beyond them.

READ MORE:
*Fine for NRL hair pulling
*Season looks over for Johnson
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For now, though, the Foran signing has not paid the dividends that many hoped for or predicted.

Departing Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei receives a haka from his team-mates.
ANTHONY AU-YEUNG/GETTY IMAGES.

Departing Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei receives a haka from his team-mates.

A low-key exit

Good on the Warriors for re-naming their stadium in Manu Vatuvei's honour for a night and performing a haka for him, at fulltime in the Panthers' game. But actually winning the match might've been a greater show of respect.

Unlike in Brisbane

Cameron Smith, right, was typically classy in the way he brought the injured Johnathan Thurston to lift the State of ...
MARK KOLBE/GETTY IMAGES.

Cameron Smith, right, was typically classy in the way he brought the injured Johnathan Thurston to lift the State of Origin shield with him.

Queensland's 22-6 win over New South Wales, in the State of Origin decider, was sweet on a variety of levels.

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The Blues' annual post-series witch hunt never gets old and this one has been especially hilarious. Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler are genuine Origin greats, just maybe not the dream coaching team their beleaguered state are after. Would've been a beaut couple of bonding nights, though, as many have said already.

While NSW continually epitomise the phrase paralysis by analysis, Queensland quietly go about the business of winning. And celebrating the contribution of their finest.

Akuila Uate, second from left, is mobbed by his Manly team-mates after scoring a brilliant individual try against the ...
CAMERON SPENCER/GETTY IMAGES.

Akuila Uate, second from left, is mobbed by his Manly team-mates after scoring a brilliant individual try against the Tigers on Sunday.

Johnathan Thurston would've been bitterly disappointed not to see out his last State of Origin series. But the team's performance in game three and the way captain Cameron Smith paid tribute to Thurston afterwards spoke volumes of the esteem in which he's held.

Back in club land

You can be a bad team and still perform creditably. The Knights and Tigers might occupy the last two rungs on the competition ladder, but they continue to have a dig and continue to make themselves hard to beat. The Warriors, for example, could learn a little from that.

Second-placed Manly made heavy weather of beating the Tigers on Sunday, despite sensational second-half tries to Akuila Uate and Jake Trbojevic, while the Broncos (in 4th) also battled to subdue the Knights.

The Thurston-less Cowboys are interesting. They beat Souths 23-10 and now face the Warriors. For the time being, the ball-playing axis of Jake Granville, Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote seem to be coping admirably and you wonder how deep into the finals they might get.

Cronulla got an uncharacteristic touch-up, losing 30-10 to the Titans on a rain-lashed Gold Coast. The Broncos - in 1997 and 1998, if you count Super League or 1992 and 1993 if you don't - are the last club to win back-to-back premierships, but the Sharks are still mounting a formidable title defence.

 - Stuff

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