NRL: Star half out for a month

Star halfback Shaun Johnson will be forced to watch the start of the NRL season from the sidelines after injuring his elbow. Photo / Getty Images
Star halfback Shaun Johnson will be forced to watch the start of the NRL season from the sidelines after injuring his elbow. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors are set to be without star halfback Shaun Johnson for the start of the NRL campaign after the Kiwi international hyper-extended his elbow in Saturday night's trial win over Brisbane.

Johnson left the field midway through the second half of the 16-10 victory in Dunedin.

Scans yesterday revealed the 22-year-old would miss three to four weeks - almost certainly ruling him out of his side's season opener against Parramatta on March 9.

Utility Carlos Tuimavave will be out for up to six weeks after breaking a bone in his right hand.

Despite the injuries, coach Matthew Elliott can now look forward to the next 12 days with a little more enthusiasm after Saturday's match.

Two poor pre-season performances had raised the spectre of the Warriors maintaining their dismal run of form from last season, so the win over the Broncos was a welcome boost of confidence.

It does not mean the Warriors are going to storm to the title but it will make preparing for the NRL season a little easier.

"I don't think we were suffering any issue with confidence," Elliott said, referring to the Warriors' losing streak, which began long before his appointment.

"I feel like we've still got a bit of work to do. But we've got a couple of weeks to do that now.

"It's nice for the boys to get a little bit of reward for the work they've put in. I thought defensively, we were outstanding tonight, which was really pleasing. We've still got some work to do with the ball, though."

Indeed they do. The Warriors were nothing short of poor with the ball in hand in the first half. They stumbled, they dropped, they pushed passes - it was ugly stuff.

Add in a limited kicking game and a struggle to combat a Broncos backline spearheaded by the lethal Justin Hodges, and it was a wonder the Warriors were able to grab a 2-0 lead with a penalty on the stroke of halftime.

That they weren't trailing by about 20 points was thanks to technology. Four times the Broncos "scored" a try, and four times they were denied by the officials and video referees. A fifth denial followed shortly after the break.

"I thought he got every call right," was Elliott's wry summation of the video referee's performance.

"A lot of the tries were disallowed because we had guys in the frame. Our guys had put pressure on to create the error."

The Warriors' defence, led by Ben Matulino, was immense.

There was much to like, too, about the performance of newcomer Todd Lowrie. The former Melbourne Storm forward opened with a tasty shoulder charge on Broncos halfback Peter Wallace, quickly added a bustling run and offload, and scored a try as the Warriors took control of the game in the final quarter.

Lowrie was the Warriors' best on the night - "by a fair streak", according to his coach - and his recruitment looks to be a sound piece of business.

Jerome Ropati made a long-awaited comeback from injury, but had few opportunities.

In all, it was a reasonable debut for top rugby league in Dunedin. Elliott was certainly impressed with the community and the covered stadium.

"What a fantastic facility, and the crowd was great," he said. "Dunedin has been fantastic. A reflection of that was the spirit of the crowd. The whole atmosphere around the city is a credit to the place."

- additional reporting Otago Daily Times


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