Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Eclipsing effect of star's injury

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Thomas Leuluai should be key players as the Warriors push for a playoff place without Tuivasa-Sheck. Photo / Andrew Cornaga
Thomas Leuluai should be key players as the Warriors push for a playoff place without Tuivasa-Sheck. Photo / Andrew Cornaga

The Warriors should be better placed to step up after Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's season-ending injury than when the same happened to Shaun Johnson last year.

They must not fall into the trap of thinking they cannot excel without their star signing.

That's what seemed to happen last season when the Warriors lost their last eight games after Johnson suffered a serious injury.

As well as hopefully learning from last year's experience, I believe the Warriors also have the personnel to better cope with the loss of RTS.

Tuimoala Lolohea and Thomas Leuluai should be key players as the Warriors push for a playoff place without Tuivasa-Sheck.

Lolohea did well at fullback after RTS was forced off last weekend and, in contrast to last season, has significantly more experience than when he replaced Johnson in the halves last year.

He's now got 30-plus NRL games under his belt, plus an appearance for the Kiwis, and is delivering on the potential that marked him out as one of the club's brightest prospects. There is a confidence and swagger about his play.

Leuluai's return from injury is another reason the Warriors should be better able to deal with this week's injury blow. He can fill the void in the halves left by Lolohea moving to fullback. His experience and guile should provide stability.

So where there was a rookie attempting to fill a big hole in 2015, there is now Lolohea and Leuluai providing excitement and experience respectively in 2016.

There is nothing standing in the way of this team overcoming the loss of one of their star recruits. The mood is more positive and there is not the doom and gloom of last year.

The Warriors responded poorly to last season's loss of Johnson. There seemed to be a resignation that they could not win without their star playmaker. The rhetoric from the administration, coaches and players was defiant but their actions and body language were anything but that.

The media wrote a script that foretold how the rest of last season was going to play out and unfortunately I think the team believed what was written.

Yes, the loss of Johnson was a blow to their chances, but they did not give themselves the chance to prove anyone wrong - they ended up sticking to the script.

Now there's an opportunity for the Warriors to show fans and critics alike that they have the fortitude to ensure history does not repeat.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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