Warriors will ‘be smart’ with Shaun Johnson as Broncos loom

The Warriors intend to limit Shaun Johnson’s participation in training again this week despite his impressive return from a calf injury on Saturday against the Knights.

Following their big win at Mt Smart, the Warriors have earned themselves a shot at this year’s grand final but they will have to go through a well-oiled Broncos machine at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday to make it.

Coach Andrew Webster said the team enjoyed their win over Newcastle and would “ride the wave” a bit this week to prepare for Brisbane, but were doing so conservatively when it comes to Johnson even though he was still without complaint on Sunday.

“Shaun was never going to train [this morning],” Webster said.

“As you can imagine, we weren’t going to put ourselves at-risk with that one… we could probably do more with Shaun but we’re not going to risk it.

“We need him to get to the starting line and make sure we’ve got everyone fit and ready to go so we’re just being smart around it.”

After missing the opening week of the NRL finals, Johnson had an influential performance in the 40-10 win at Mt Smart on Saturday but his calf was still strapped and the Warriors appeared to take further precaution in leaving the goal-kicking duties with Adam Pompey rather than adding to the 33-year-old’s workload.

Regardless, Johnson was on point with his return and breathed a sense of direction into the Warriors’ attack they sorely missed in their first finals match against the Panthers a week prior.

Johnson finished up with two tries assists, two forced dropouts and 627 kicking metres in the contest before he was subbed off with seven minutes to go and the result sealed.

As Johnson left the field, he did a half-lap of the stadium with the crowd who stood to applaud the club favourite for his performance.

Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson salutes the Mt Smart crowd after his side's big victory over Newcastle.

“I think he deserved that,” Webster said of the moment.

“We didn’t do it on purpose that he got off on the far side of the field and walked around but sometimes these things are just meant to be and it worked out well.

“I thought he had a really good opportunity to give everyone a wave but I think it was more that the fans got a chance to thank him too and that was nice.”

It was just the latest special moment for Johnson in a remarkable season of resurgence from the veteran playmaker, who is considered the front-runner for this year’s Dally M medal.

One player who could pip Johnson for the prize is Broncos prop Payne Haas who has also been influential to his side’s winning ways this year with almost 4000 running metres, 105 tackles broken and a tackle efficiency of 98.3%.

Payne Haas reacts after the Broncos loss against the Warriors earlier this season.

Despite Haas’ powerhouse season, Webster was still picking Johnson to come out on top.

“I’m biased but I think Shaun has been the best player,” he said.

“I think halfbacks earn the results and I think he’s certainly done that. We’ve had 17 wins this season and I think he’s had a huge impact on those wins. I think that’s what makes a Dally M player of the year.

“It doesn’t mean a front rower can’t get it and Haas is a great player so if he got it, then great, but if you’re asking me, I work with Shaun every day and I see the impact he has so of course I’m going to say that but I mean it – I think he’s the best player in the competition.”

The Warriors play the Broncos on Saturday night at 9:50pm NZT.

The Post Warriors will ‘be smart’ with Shaun Johnson as Broncos loom Originally Posted on www.1news.co.nz

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