NRL: Johnson keen to elbow his way into the frame

By Michael Brown

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.

This season was looming as Shaun Johnson's chance to really stamp his mark on the Warriors but that has been delayed by a troublesome elbow injury and the halfback doesn't know when he will be back on the field.

Johnson hyper-extended his right elbow in the 16-10 win over Brisbane in Dunedin last weekend and initial estimates suggest he would be out of the game for up to a month. He didn't take part in training this week but hoped he might be involved next week.

The club haven't ruled him out of playing in the season opener against Parramatta in Sydney next weekend but he seems little more than an outside chance.

"I'm taking it day-by-day at the moment," said Johnson, who is sporting a big compression bandage on his arm. "I have been told three to four weeks and I'm just sticking with that at the moment. It feels alright but I have never had an injury like this. I'm just listening to what [the medical team] say and trying to do everything I can to get it going along a bit quicker."

The Warriors are a better side with the 22-year-old on the park. His form dipped towards the end of last season but he wasn't alone as the Warriors slumped to a club-record eight-match NRL losing run - which they will hope to snap against the Eels.

Coach Matt Elliott has options in the halves if Johnson is ruled out, with youngster Harry Siejka, utility Pita Godinet and Feleti Mateo the main contenders to play alongside five-eighth Thomas Leuluai.

But Johnson's combination with Leuluai will be critical if the Warriors are to be successful following the departure of James Maloney to the Roosters.

"I was in a pretty good space [before the injury], I thought," said Johnson, who played in last month's All Stars game. "This is only a minor setback and you're going to get those throughout the year. Hopefully I will get this one out the way nice and early so there won't be too many more.

"I feel pretty good about the training I have been doing and where the team is at after last weekend. We played really well and really turned up for each other on Saturday night.

"This season for me was about just trying to do the basics really well. Defence is a big thing for me so just tackle really hard. Get in. Make an effort. Turn up when I have to turn up.

The Warriors didn't do a lot of that last season but there is cautious optimism they will turn around a dreadful 2012 when they finished 14th on the table with only eight wins in 24 games. What made it difficult to take for fans was the fact it came a year after their grand final appearance.

Johnson played a significant hand in getting the club there in 2011 after making his NRL debut midway through the year and played a starring role against Manly in the grand final in setting up two tries as they threatened a late comeback.

He's not, however, the rookie any more and that presents its challenges.

"I'm not the new kid on the block any more but I still have that sense of wanting to prove myself and play good footy," he said. "I missed that at the back end of last season so it would be good to get back in the rhythm of things and enjoy winning games again."

His elbow will have a say when that might be.

- APNZ

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