By Jonty Dine of RNZ
Warriors coach Andrew Webster is prepared to pull Shaun Johnson from the field if his wife goes into labour.
Should Kayla Johnson go into labour during the Warriors match on Sunday, her husband will be pulled from the field to attend the birth.
Johnson has been on baby watch since last week where he made the last minute decision to board the plane to Sydney for his 200th NRL match against the Eels.
Webster says being a ten minute drive to the hospital as opposed to a three hour flight, Johnson will be in attendance for the birth of his second child.
“The difference is if he gets a call that she’s gone into labour, it’s a 10-minute drive down the road as opposed to three-hour flight, so we can always manage that.”
Webster insisted that his star play maker will not be missing the birth.
“If it works out that he can achieve both this week, that would be cool but if the baby was coming in the first 35 minutes, I’d get him off the field, if it was 50, I’d probably keep him there,” he joked.
Webster is also looking forward to the end of a media blackout enforced by NRL players as they negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.
Players did not speak to media at Mount Smart Stadium today as the self imposed blackout continues.
Webster is hopeful of a speedy resolution.
“I can’t wait for the players to be able to talk to the media and for everything to be back how it was, that would be great for the game.”
Webster says he simply wants his players to be happy.
“I just want both parties to be really happy. I’m sure smarter people than I will sort that out.”
Warriors legend Monty Betham concurred.
“I empathise with the fans, to hear from our heroes in that moment where they’ve just come up with a clutch play, or their thoughts going into a match which is so important.”
Betham was part of the Warriors squad which made the NRL grand final for the first time in the club’s history.
The cult icon says the culture around the club is similar to that of his team’s historic 2002 season.
“The way they play, the feeling around the place.”
Known for being on the winning side of some infamous on field brawls, Betham said he doesn’t miss the biff.
“That’s long gone, there is a lot of legal biff that I love.”
The Warriors will welcome back second rower Josh Curran from suspension while prop Bunty Afoa has been ruled out for round 20 encounter with Cronulla.
Afoa is out for a week as he follows NRL concussion protocols after receiving a head knock in Saturday night’s emphatic 46-10 win over Parramatta.
For Afoa, his absence ends a run of 48 consecutive appearances stretching back to mid-July 2021.
The Warriors lie sixth on 24 points with a 10-7 win-loss record, two points behind the third placed Sharks.
When the two sides met in round five, the Warriors pulled off a remarkable comeback, recovering from a 0-20 deficit to win 32-30.
The Warriors are sixth on the ladder with ten wins from 17 games.