24 Feb 2017

Too much expected of Shaun Johnson

7:07 pm on 24 February 2017

Warriors boss Stephen Kearney admits too much has been expected of halfback Shaun Johnson in the NRL side's five years of finals failure.

Warriors' halfback Shaun Johnson speaking to media at Mount Smart Staduim, 11 May 2016.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The team's indisputable star since bursting onto the scene in 2011, Johnson has been unable to drag the Warriors into the finals since that year's grand final tilt.

Yet new boss Kearney, who has changed the side's attacking structure to get more out of the 26-year-old, says the playmaker could never have done it on his own.

That was particularly the case in 2016, as a leaky defence and Johnson's persistent thigh niggle condemned the side to 10th place.

"All I want Shaun to do is his job and do it well," Kearney said.

"He's got 12 other teammates on the field that I have the same expectations for.

"If everyone else is doing their job and he's doing his, we know what he can do."

Last week's rousing 26-6 trial win over Gold Coast capped off a positive week for the club, having earlier registered playmaker Kieran Foran's one-year contract.

Kearney said he was encouraged by what he saw in Palmerston North, with the side's NRL round one hit-out against Newcastle just nine days away.

Foran's stand-in Ata Hingano had impressed the boss with his maturity and defensive ability, while new captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was a standout.

A foot injury to Ryan Hoffman is less serious than first feared with Kearney saying only veteran winger Manu Vatuvei and back-rower Bodene Thompson were doubts for round one, having suffered knee and ankle problems respectively.

Neither had taken part in either of the side's two trials or the Auckland Nines, and may lack the match fitness for NRL football.

Foran, meanwhile, will not be eligible for selection until round three, pending a final psychological assessment.

"There's a couple of guys there who won't have played matches, so I need to have a good think about that over the weekend," Kearney said.

"We're a week away from round one and I'm getting excited about that, and I've got no doubt the players are too."