Australian critics suggest the Warriors could miss the NRL finals without Shaun Johnson wearing the side's No 7 jersey.

In assessing each of the 16 NRL team's prospects and potential weaknesses heading into the upcoming season, a story on foxsports.com.au details how the Auckland-based outfit may struggle without Johnson following his off-season move to Cronulla.

It's hardly a new theory, with much of the talk around the Warriors over the summer centering on how coach Stephen Kearney will replace the Kiwi test halfback, as he searches for a new foil for experienced playmaker Blake Green.

But despite encouraging signs shown by the Warriors trio of rookie halves - 21-year-old Adam Keighran, and 19-year-old pair Chanel Harris-Tavita and Hayze Perham – in pre-season trial wins over Melbourne and Wests Tigers, doubts remain across the ditch about whether any of them can fill Johnson's boots.

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Rookie playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita has performed well in the Warriors pre-season trial wins over Melbourne and Wests Tigers. Photo / Photosport.
Rookie playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita has performed well in the Warriors pre-season trial wins over Melbourne and Wests Tigers. Photo / Photosport.

"While Johnson was often scrutinised for his inconsistencies in big games, there's no doubt his departure leaves a large hole in the side's attack," the foxsports.com.au story claims.

"With almost all of the sides the Warriors shared the top eight with last season strengthening their lists, the lack of experience in the No.7 jersey could significantly damage the club's finals prospects."

Kearney is yet to announce who he will go with for the Warriors season-opener against Canterbury at Mt Smart Stadium on March 16, but it's believed Keighran and Harris-Tavita are the front-runners.

It's unlikely any of the candidates will play at halfback however, after Green made a successful return from a hamstring injury to direct the side's attack in the No 7 role in the Warriors 26-16 win over the Tigers in Whangarei last Saturday.

Fellow halves contender Adam Keighran has also looked sharp for the Warriors throughout the pre-season. Photo / Photosport.
Fellow halves contender Adam Keighran has also looked sharp for the Warriors throughout the pre-season. Photo / Photosport.

It's a role Green is accustomed to, having operated as the team's halfback last season despite wearing the No 6 jersey, while Johnson had a license to roam and played more like a five-eighth.

Intrigue will surround the announcement of the Warriors side to face the Bulldogs next Tuesday, and no doubt close scrutiny will hang over the performance of the Warriors halves as the season progresses.