The Warriors’ worst fears were realised at Mt Smart Stadium tonight with star halfback Shaun Johnson suffering a season-ending injury. As his teammates slumped to a disappointing loss to Manly, it is hard to see how the Warriors will win another game this season with the competition’s most irreplaceable player on the side lines.
Most irreplaceable? Big call? Maybe so. I can’t think of a player more valuable to his side than Johnson is to the Warriors side of 2015. He might not be in the same category as Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis and the like just yet but those clubs – Cowboys, Storm and Rabbitohs could still find replacements from within their squads that could keep their side in the hunt this season. I don’t see that at the Warriors.
Johnson would probably not figure in the top half dozen players in the NRL right now but he is everything to the Warriors. He is their chief play-maker, their best general play kicker, their attacking voice, their go-to X-factor player, their goal-kicker and the guy that attracts the most attention for opposing sides, which inevitably opens up space and opportunity for his teammates.
With Johnson missing, Chad Townsend’s kicking game was poor. Much of that was the fact that the Sea Eagles could rush at him on last tackle, knowing he was their only real kicking option.
Johnson has long attracted criticism from some quarters that label him overrated. I couldn’t disagree more with those sentiments. He is still a way off being the player he could potentially be but we will all see how much he will be missed over the next six weeks.
The Warriors have been well entrenched inside the top eight in each of the past two seasons as the Origin period ended only to fall out of contention by the end of the regular season. Sadly, with this injury, it appears the streak will continue for another season.