Costly round one for Warriors

Published 4:04pm 14 March 2022

Costly round one for Warriors
Words by Kylie Knight

Warriors star halfback Shaun Johnson is among three players injured in the side’s round one loss against the Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday.

Scans and further assessment today have revealed the 31-year-old has a minor pectoral strain which is expected to keep him out of action for up to four weeks.

In his first match for the club in more than three and a half years, Johnson had a hand in each of the Vodafone Warriors’ three tries in their 16-28 loss to the Dragons.

It’s a blow for the club who will also be without experienced winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and rookie centre Viliami Vailea, also injured in the clash.

Watene-Zelezniak broke his left thumb in the opening minutes but still played the full 80 minutes. It was a courageous performance which include scoring his fifth try in his 10th match for the club.

The 26-year-old will have surgery and is likely to be out for six to eight weeks.

Vailea, 19, playing his third NRL match, needed treatment after a knock to his left knee during the first half. He played the full 80 minutes but has suffered a MCL (medial collateral ligament) injury and is expected be out for three to four weeks.

And Warriors captain Addin Fonua-Blake faces a nervous wait to learn if he is free to play this week after being placed on report for a crusher tackle.

There were moments to give Warriors’ fans cause for optimism in their side’s defeat on Saturday, particularly with Johnson directing play and creating opportunities, and exciting play from Josh Curran, Eliesa Katoa and Aaron Pene.

Missed opportunities

Head Coach Nathan Brown said the side was keen to play a more “positive brand of footy this year” but “never quite got our game going”.

He cited a high error rate and inability to maintain pressure on their opponent.

“We certainly never made the Dragons have to work very hard. The way we controlled the ball and that type of stuff,” Brown said at the post-game press conference.

“When we got to 16-14, considering the amount of field position the Dragons had had … to get there was a good effort by the boys. And then when we missed our chance there, we sort of lost our way a bit and again we turned a lot of ball over.”

He said Johnson and plenty of other players had some positive and negative points.

“We had some blokes who were probably below where they’d really like to be which is hard at this level but Shaun had some positive stuff. It’s always easy for your half(back) when you’re making the opposition work a little harder,” he explained.

“We didn’t really tire their defence much at all. What we created was some nice play from the boys … off the back of their defence being pretty fresh most of the time.

“We got to the stage where we were under some heavy fatigue due to our own inability to build some pressure.”

Brown said the side needed to build more pressure, regardless of who else was coming into the team when asked about Reece Walsh’s return this week.

“Some of our defence is really good. I think we’re definitely looking a little better than this time last year but again it’s still not at the level we need it to be or as consistent as it needs to be to be a good footy team at the moment,” he said.

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