NRL: Johnson to return for Warriors

By David Skipwith

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is adamant he has made a full recovery from his groin injury. Photo / Getty Images.
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is adamant he has made a full recovery from his groin injury. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is adamant he has made a full recovery from his groin injury and is feeling good ahead of his return in Sunday's away clash with the Newcastle Knights.

Johnson ran freely at today's team training and said his three-game lay-off ensured he regained full fitness ahead of the business end of the year, with just four rounds remaining in the regular season.

"I'm 100 per cent certain. I feel good. A couple weeks back I thought I was good, [but] I went in and aggravated it straight away," Johnson said.

"Obviously we've got some pretty big games coming up and I didn't want to go out on the field and only last five minutes and have no confidence in what I was doing, so it was about getting it right, and not just for the game but for long-term as well. Today out there, I tested it in every way I could and I didn't feel it at all so, touch wood, but we've got one more session to get through and then it's game time."

Coach Andrew McFadden reiterated Johnson's positive outlook and said he could have been called upon for last Sunday's match against Cronulla but was given the extra week off as an added precaution.

"He looked great, Shaun. He's 100 per cent so we're very happy he's back in the side," McFadden said. "I'm confident. At a pinch we could have played him last weekend. He's done all the work, he's done all the rehab, and he's ticked all the boxes. He's ready to go."

Johnson conceded he would not be taking the goal kicking duties off halves partner Chad Townsend, who has missed just four of 11 shots in three matches against Manly, Canberra and Cronulla.

"I haven't thought about it too much [goal kicking]. I won't do it this weekend. Chaddy's been hitting them pretty good so there's no reason to take him off it," he said.

He is ready to resume kicking in general play, however, and is hopeful of improving the Warriors set completions after noticing the lack of accuracy and consistency in that department against the Sharks.

"That's one of the biggest aspects of my position, our last plays, and I certainly wouldn't be playing if I couldn't kick the ball," he said. "Our set finishes, especially in that second-half on the weekend and even today at training, we didn't do them well. That area is a key focus for us and we need to get that right if we want to build any sort of pressure on any side. I probably saw the real importance of that watching from the sideline."

His return coincides with Thomas Leuluai's first start in the No9 jersey, after filling in admirably at No7 in Johnson's absence. Nathan Friend is sure to make his presence felt coming off the bench but Johnson is confident the change will be a positive one.

"I hope he [Leuluai] makes my job easier. He's played a lot of hooker and is a very experienced player. I know the boys like having him out on the field so he'll control the ruck really nicely for us."

The 14th-placed Knights may well be out of the race for a spot in the top eight but Johnson insists they will prove tough opponents at home on the back of Saturday night's inspiring last-minute victory over Melbourne.

"[They have] a lot of pride to play for and we saw what they did last week against the Storm so we're in no position to think we can go over there and it'll be 'job done' before we get there. We've just got to put our best foot forward, prepare right and show the right attitude."

Knights v Warriors
Hunter Stadium, 4.00pm
Refs: Gavin Morris, Gavin Reynolds.

Knights:
1. Kurt Gidley (c) 2. Chanel Mata'utia 3. Dane Gagai 4. Joey Leilua 5. Akuila Uate 6. Jarrod Mullen 7. Tyrone Roberts 8. Kade Snowden 9. Adam Clydsdale 10. Willie Mason 11. Beau Scott 12. Robbie Rochow 13. Jeremy Smith
Interchange:
14. Travis Waddell 15. Korbin Sims 16. Adam Cuthbertson 17. David Fa'alogo 18. Chris Houston (one to be omitted)

Warriors:
1. Sam Tomkins 2. David Fusitu'a 3. Ngani Laumape 4. Ben Henry 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Chad Townsend 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Thomas Leuluai 10. Suaia Matagi
11. Ben Matulino 12. Jayson Bukuya 13. Simon Mannering (c)
Interchange:
14. Feleti Mateo 15. Sam Rapira 16. Sione Lousi 17. Nathan Friend 18. Sebastine Ikahihifo
19. Dominique Peyroux (two to be omitted)

- NZ Herald

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