NRL: Johnson key to Warriors' revival

By Michael Brown

Halfback missed tackles and made errors in win over Newcastle, but he grew in confidence as match wore on.

Nathan Friend and Kevin Locke honour a Shaun Johnson-inspired try by Elijah Taylor. Photo / Richard Robinson
Nathan Friend and Kevin Locke honour a Shaun Johnson-inspired try by Elijah Taylor. Photo / Richard Robinson

Halfback Shaun Johnson made a gesture to Matt Elliott in the coach's box immediately after Elijah Taylor crossed to seal the Warriors' 28-12 win over Newcastle on Sunday.

Some immediately interpreted it as a "take that" after Johnson was dragged after just 49 minutes in the previous weekend's humiliating 62-6 defeat to Penrith - and Elliott admitted he noticed it - but Johnson revealed his motives were less angular.

"It was just to say 'thank you'," he said. "He stuck by me during the week when he could easily have put me down to reserve grade. I thought at that time in the game we needed something to nudge us ahead and I was happy I could step up and put on that try for Elijah. It was nothing but thanks, really."

Johnson used different words such as "humiliated" and "embarrassed" a week previously, and felt he was unfairly singled out for the Warriors' capitulation against the Panthers. After he had softened his stance later in the week, he spoke about his genuine fear of being dropped.

He still produced a mixed bag, with four missed tackles, three errors and a generally poor kicking game and he also seemed reluctant to take the line on.

But he grew in confidence as the game wore on and produced two try assists - one a spiral bomb which led to Simon Mannering's try and the other a clever short pass to Taylor - and three tackle breaks. And he also kicked four goals from five attempts.

Johnson is a key figure if the Warriors are to drag themselves out of their dreadful position on the table, and he remains convinced they can achieve something this season.

"[The Knights result] will reiterate not that we ever lost it, [but] we can still do it. We have the roster to do good things. It doesn't matter who we come up against, but if we are playing the type of footy we want to keep playing, I don't think there are many teams who can beat us."

Most have done that over the past 12 months, with Sunday's win just their third in 19 games, and they will need a very good run of results to get into playoff contention.

That's a tall order given they come up against Brisbane (A), Manly (H), the Roosters (A), Brisbane (H) and Souths (A) over the next six weeks.

Helping their cause on Monday is that the Broncos will be without four players - Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Matt Gillett - through State of Origin duty, but Brisbane have won three of the last four games between the two sides and sit on the cusp of the top eight.

Elliott has made only one change to the starting side, with Konrad Hurrell returning at centre for the injured Carlos Tuimavave (neck).

Hurrell has spent the past month playing for the Vulcans, and centre continues to be a problem position for the Warriors because of form and injuries.

Dominique Peyroux, who has yet to debut for the Warriors after his move from the Titans, has been called on to an extended five-man bench and could be an option at centre. He returned recently from a broken jaw.

Prop Sam Rapira is free to play even though he pleaded guilty to a tripping charge from the Knights game.

Broncos v Warriors
Suncorp Stadium, 9pm Monday

- APNZ

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