Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson hopes the fallout from the prescription pills and energy drinks scandal is a turning point in their season.

Johnson returned to the Warriors this week after playing for the Kiwis in last weekend's transtasman test defeat to the Kangaroos and found a club looking to move on from the dramas of the past fortnight.

The next opportunity will come on Saturday, when they take on the Panthers in Christchurch and look to record rare consecutive victories after their 26-10 win over the Dragons a fortnight ago. Five players were dropped for that game and made unavailable for test selection for breaching team protocol and others benched for poor form.

Johnson admits the Warriors have had underwhelming start to the season but says they can emerge from the drugs scandal with a sharpened focus.


The hardline stance taken by coach Andrew McFadden and managing director Jim Doyle in the prescription pills saga made it clear that new and improved standards are expected on and off the field.

"We always knew the coach was the boss," said Johnson. "But I hope it's a turning point.
"We haven't started the year off too well and if we can use this to push us in the right direction then we'll take it.

"We haven't performed in certain games. We've won a few but obviously not enough."

The reintroduction of two of the players punished, back-rower Bodene Thompson and bench prop Ben Matulino, was welcomed by their teammates, who were largely sympathetic and understanding of their actions.

Manu Vatuvei also returned to team training this week after a week's medical leave and yesterday broke his silence over his involvement in the matter.

After details of the group's night out became public last Monday, his predicament worsened that evening after he made an emotional but cryptic social media post before responding angrily to online criticism from fans.

The 30-year-old wasn't selected to play this weekend but hopes to return to the first grade side soon.

He admitted in a club video he had been struggling for some time and the events of the last week was a "breaking point".

"It's good to be back in the environment with all the brothers and the club and I've just got to move on from what's been happening," he said.

"My body's ready to play but my mind's not there so it's something I need to get right before I can play with the team."

Whatever reasons lay behind the group's behaviour, Johnson alluded to deeper and private issues contributing to their poor judgement.

"We were there for them," he said. "We all understand the pressures of this environment and sometimes it's not as black and white as what it seems.

"There's no excuse for any of that behaviour and they'll be the first to say that. As teammates, we just want them back on the field playing alongside us.

"It was disappointing. It's something we wish we never had to go through but we have.

"Those boys have been dealt with and I know they're sorry for how things panned out and they just want to get back to playing footy."

The enthusiastic and committed efforts of the fill-in players who got their opportunity against the Dragons had been unfairly overlooked in the wake of the drugs saga, and Johnson said it was exciting and only fair that the likes of hooker Jazz Tevaga and lock John Palavi retained their spots.

"It's awesome and that's probably been the sad point about all of this.

"A lot has gone on but you saw boys come in last week that haven't played first grade in a while and I guess we haven't given them enough credit for that.

"They came in at a tough time, at a time when the club wasn't at its best, and they've delivered for us so it's cool to see rewarded with a second chance this week."

Warriors side to play Penrith at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, Saturday, 5pm:

1. Tui Lolohea, 2. Jonathan Wright, 3. Blake Ayshford, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. David Fusitu'a, 6. Thomas Leuluai, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 9. Jazz Tevaga, 10. James Gavet, 11. Bodene Thompson, 12. Ryan Hoffman (c), 13. John Palavi.

Interchange: 14. Issac Luke, 15. Ben Matulino, 16. Charlie Gubb, 17. Shaun Lane, 18. Matt Allwood.