While Australian critics predict a doomed NRL season for the Warriors, rugby league commentator Andrew Voss firmly believes the side could finish in the top four.

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

"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 claimed.

Commentator Andrew Voss. Photo / Getty
Commentator Andrew Voss. Photo / Getty

Speaking to the Radio Sport Breakfast, however, Voss believes the Warriors are set to defy all odds and make the top four despite having only achieved so in two of the past 24 seasons.


"I'm copping a lot of flack for it, I even had one celebrated rugby league commentator ask 'whatever I'm on he wants some' ... but I have the Warriors in the top four," Voss told the Radio Sport Breakfast.

"If I look at the competition in whole, the 16 teams, I don't have too many teams improving on what they showed us last year.

"I just think the Warriors need 10 to 15 per cent improvement and they can be an absolute contender and it's all about overcoming the loss of Shaun Johnson. Tuivasa-Sheck's still there, Issac Luke's still there, no Simon Mannering, but a terrific pack of young blokes coming through.

Shaun Johnson of the Cronulla Sharks. Photo / Getty
Shaun Johnson of the Cronulla Sharks. Photo / Getty

"I'm still excited by the Warriors this season."

Recent talk around the Warriors has focused heavily on how head coach Stephen Kearney will replace the loss of Johnson.

And despite encouraging performances from 21-year-old Adam Keighran, and 19-year-old duo Chanel Harris-Tavita and Hayze Perham in the pre-season, doubts remain about whether any of them can fill Johnson's boots.

Hayze Perham (CL) waits with Chanel Harris-Tavita (CR) during a New Zealand Warriors NRL media opportunity. Photo / Getty
Hayze Perham (CL) waits with Chanel Harris-Tavita (CR) during a New Zealand Warriors NRL media opportunity. Photo / Getty

Although agreeing that the Warriors' success would come down to the team being able to move on from Johnson's departure, Voss said the Auckland side's back three of Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitua was the best in the competition and could be key to guiding Kearney's side to the top.

"I wish Shaun Johnson was still at the Warriors but I think they're going to find a way to overcome that," Voss said. "I think their defence will be a little better, I think they learned a lot about themselves last year.

"I think the back three for the Warriors, you name me a better back three in the competition ... they're outstanding and the best Warriors I have seen over the years all started from the very first return carry.

"I just think the platform is there for this team to grow, room for potential [and] room for improvement ... there's plenty to work with there."

The Warriors are set to face the Bulldogs on Saturday night in their first clash of the season at Mt Smart Stadium.