Shaun Johnson will return from injury and link up with Te Maire Martin as the Warriors’ halves pairing for Saturday night’s NRL home game against the Melbourne Storm – but coach Andrew Webster is tight-lipped about how they will play.

While the side aren’t named officially until 6pm, Webster also confirmed fan-favourite Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be named in the reserves but is unlikely to get on the park.

Johnson hasn’t played since May 12, when the Warriors lost 38-18 to the Roosters in round 10, because of a pectoral injury but in his three-game absence, Martin picked up the mantle as chief playmaker and thrived.

Webster kept his cards close to his chest when pressed by reporters at a stand-up on how the Warriors planned to share playmaking duties between Johnson and Martin.

“You’ll see Te Maire touch the ball more. We’re going to balance the field up [and] play what we see. The boys have got an opportunity to, if they see an opportunity, they’re going to take it. If that opportunity happens to be that Shaun gets the ball, that’s how it is. If it happens to be Te Maire gets the ball, that’s how it is.

“[Te Maire’s] not going to be stuck out on the left, so put it that way. Melbourne can know that now, I’m okay with that.”

Webster says although Tuivasa-Sheck, who also hasn’t played since round 10 after picking up a hamstring injury, is nearing a return, the club wanted to keep him sidelined for another week.

“We’re going to probably give Roger one more week just with some reps. I think he did like four reps with the team last week – he’s been doing small drills and training but hasn’t done any of our big ones. We’ll name him in the 22 just in case but we’ll just make sure we get plenty of reps into him.”

The Warriors have won three in a row, beating defending champions the Penrith Panthers, the Redcliffe Dolphins and the North Queensland Cowboys following a five-game winless streak – and the return of Johnson couldn’t come at a better time.

The Warriors last defeated the Storm on July 12, 2015, winning 28-14 at home in one of the most unforgettable games in the club’s history; highlighted by Nathan Friend’s amazing upside-down, between-the-legs pass that led to a Tuimoala Lolohea try.

That streak nearly ended on March 16 when the two sides met in Melbourne but the visitors were denied victory in the 79th minute by one of the greatest tries ever.

With mere seconds on the clock, Xavier Coates threw himself at the tryline as Dallin Watene-Zelezniak hustled to cover and made a decent effort to force the Storm winger into touch but Coates was not to be denied. Launching from about 6m short of the line, Coates absorbed the attempt from Watene-Zelezniak and contorted his body to score one of the greatest match-winners you could hope to see, lifting Melbourne to a 30-26 win.

Webster says he has plenty of respect for the Storm and praised the club for being able to be at the top of the NRL for so long.

“I feel like their club’s built on values that they won’t take for granted. They’ve done it for so long but whoever’s been the next man up, you watch their big four leave and then the next thing it’s [Ryan] Papenhuyzen, it’s [Cameron] Munster, it’s [Jahrome] Hughes, it’s [Harry] Grant – they’re pretty good for substitutes to keep carrying the torch for the club.”

Hooker Wayde Egan says the Warriors must restrict the likes of Grant and Hughes.

“Guys like that, you can’t give them any opportunities [because] they’ll take it and [the Storm can] score from anywhere on the field,” Egan says.

“[The round two match] was a really good performance by us – I think at the time we sort of felt like we should have won that game. I wasn’t playing but watching at home and I felt like the boys were all over them in the second half and it was a very disappointing one to take. I think we can take a lot of confidence out of what we did down in Melbourne and take it into this week at home.”

Luke Kirkness is an Online Sports Editor for the NZ Herald. He previously covered consumer affairs for the Herald and was an assistant news director in the Bay of Plenty. He won Student Journalist of the Year in 2019.

2024-06-11T04:12:17Z dg43tfdfdgfd