Warriors captain Manu Vatuvei says the flood of junior players into the first grade side shouldn't be blamed for their dramatic NRL slide from finals contention.
A run of three close losses was followed by a humiliating 45-4 defeat at the hands of Cronulla in Auckland on Sunday, leaving the Warriors with a minuscule chance of reaching the playoffs.
Critics point to the increasing reliance on players from the club's under-20 ranks during the season for their struggles heading into Saturday's showdown with North Queensland in Townsville.
That includes Carlos Tuimavave, who made his debut when replacing an injured James Maloney at five-eighth just 20 minutes into Sunday's defeat.
"What happened with Carlos coming on early in a tough game is typical for us this season," Vatuvei told NZ Newswire.
"We've had a lot of injuries and been forced to give these young guys a run.
"But there's no way I'd blame that for our results. All the guys who have debuted have played out of their skin. We're just happy to have that sort of depth at the Warriors and now these guys are getting a feel for first grade."
Tuimavave's debut was a solid one and Vatuvei believed it was only a matter of time before the 20-year-old and halfback Shaun Johnson reignite the dazzling partnership that carried the Junior Warriors to victory in the 2010 under-20 final.
"He's played a lot with Shaun and they know what each other's strengths are.
"When Carlos carries the ball he's strong, he can break tackles. And he's got a good kicking game so we've got a lot of confidence him."
The team flew out on Thursday with Maloney still rated an outside chance to play. There was no such hope for classy prop Ben Matulino, whose chest injury against the Sharks added him to the long list of senior Warriors sidelined this year.
His absence is at least countered by the return from injury of defensive kingpin and former Cowboy Micheal Luck, whose only two appearances this season have been off the interchange bench.