Shaun Johnson is back - but is it a risk?
The Warriors halfback has been named to return for Sunday's match against Manly, slightly ahead of schedule after being sidelined with a knee injury.
It's been 40 days since he tore his posterior cruciate ligament during the round 19 loss to Penrith at Mt Smart, and at the time it seemed unlikely he would feature again this season.
But coach Stephen Kearney has continually maintained that Johnson was making solid steps in his recovery, and those beliefs have turned out to be correct.
"He has progressed really well and worked really hard," Kearney told Radio Sport yesterday. "It's a real credit to him and the medical staff."
But it seems a risk to bring him back, especially with nothing to play for. The Warriors aren't involved in a end of season relegation scrap - like you see in football - and their finals hopes evaporated weeks ago.
What is surely much more important is the upcoming World Cup, and then the 2018 NRL season, but it's a measure of the desperate plight the Warriors find themselves in that sees Johnson back in the No7 jersey.
More than anything, the Auckland club need a victory. Firstly to restore a degree of belief and self confidence, and also to avoid the possibility of a nine match losing streak (if they don't win another game in 2017), which would be a record within a single season.
They are spiralling towards the bottom of the ladder, which - no matter how you spin it - would be a disaster given the hope at the start of the season.
Johnson has no doubt passed all manner of medical tests and fitness tests, but matches are a whole different matter, especially with the unforgiving physical nature of the NRL.
"I don't know if he is 100 per cent, because I don't think many of them playing at this time of year are 100 per cent and he falls into that category but he has ticked all of the boxes," said Kearney. "He's got to get through this week but he has ticked all the boxes so far. At this stage, he should be good to go."
Partnering Johnson in the halves is Kieran Foran, who left the field in last Friday's 36-18 loss to South Sydney with a back complaint but has been named to face his former club.
Along with Johnson, Ben Matulino is also back in the fold after he served a one-match suspension last week. However, his return is offset by veteran Jacob Lillyman's season-ending bicep injury, which he picked up in the first half against the Rabbitohs.
Along with Foran, Matulino, Ryan Hoffman and Charlie Gubb are set for their farewell appearances in front of the home crowd at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.
The Sea Eagles have been erratic of late - losing five of their last seven matches - but that will count for little this weekend. They have a 22-8 winning edge in 30 encounters against the Warriors since 1995, making them the Auckland club's second toughest opponents behind only the Dragons. The Warriors haven't beaten Manly since 2013.
Warriors v Manly Sea Eagles
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, August 27
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C)
2 David Fusitu'a
3 Blake Ayshford
4 Solomone Kata
5 Ken Maumalo
6 Kieran Foran
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Ben Matulino
9 Issac Luke
10 Sam Lisone
11 Bunty Afoa
12 Ryan Hoffman
13 Simon Mannering
14 Mafoa'aeata Hingano
15 Charlie Gubb
16 Isaiah Papali'i
17 Jazz Tevaga
18 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
20 Chris Satae
21 James Bell
22 Mason Lino
Head Coach | Stephen Kearney