Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Johnson faces fitness race

Groin strain leaves Warriors' star halfback in doubt to face Gold Coast on Saturday

Shaun Johnson's kicking duties and high-speed game put him at risk of aggravating his injury. Photo / Richard Robinson
Shaun Johnson's kicking duties and high-speed game put him at risk of aggravating his injury. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Warriors could face a halves dilemma on Saturday, with Shaun Johnson under an injury cloud ahead of the match with the Gold Coast Titans

Johnson didn't front for training yesterday, with youngster Tuimoala Lolohea running in his place.

The star halfback has what coach Andrew McFadden described as a "minor" groin strain - but there is always a lingering uncertainty with injuries in that area of the body.

It is exacerbated because of Johnson's kicking duties, both from general play and goal kicking, and the high-speed game he employs.

A Warriors team without either Johnson or Thomas Leuluai would be a unusual sight. Leuluai didn't miss a single match last season while Johnson has also been remarkably durable. He missed just two games during his first full NRL season in 2012 and hasn't been absent on game day since.

The current situation also puts the Warriors' halves depth under the spotlight.

Lolohea is a player of immense promise but he has yet to play a first grade game.

Chad Townsend has improved steadily this season but is probably not ready to run the team on his own. Johnson has also hit rare form with his goal kicking in recent weeks, though Townsend would also be a capable backup.

Meanwhile, there has been some positive news for Leuluai.

He had an operation late last week to remove a small "sports-hernia" as he continues his recovery from a groin injury.

It is not expected to be the sole cause of his osteitis pubis condition but is understood to be a contributing factor. McFadden now hopes Leuluai will be back in "three or four weeks".

- NZ Herald

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