The Warriors are looking to rediscover their winning ways against Canberra on Saturday despite the absence of star halfback Shaun Johnson.
The Warriors need to find a way to win without Shaun Johnson, and then keep doing it.
After the superstar halfback re-aggravated the groin injury that ruled him out of last week’s loss to Manly, the pressure is well and truly on the team to band together for what could be a lengthy period without its backline leader.
It’s a major blow for Warriors coach Andrew McFadden as he searches for ways to rectify a two-game slump that has dropped them to ninth place on the NRL ladder.
This week’s match-up against the struggling Raiders, which begins a string of appointments against the competition’s cellar dwellers, has been highlighted on the team’s calendar for weeks.
McFadden, a former Raiders assistant, is hoping his first trip home as a fully fledged NRL coach doesn’t end in embarrassment.
The Warriors are yet to taste victory without their prized No.7 – the three matches played in his absence since he debuted in 2011 have all ended in defeat.
Following two gruelling assignments – a trip to Suncorp Stadium and a clash against the premiership favourites Manly – McFadden’s men hoped to use the coming weeks to build momentum heading into championship rounds.
But Johnson’s demise and the failure to grab any competition points in the last fortnight mean that every game is now a must-win if they want a shot at breaking their title duck in September.
“We need to win because we need to stay in touch with this group that’s fighting for the top eight,” McFadden said.
“This week is a very important game for us and probably the next month of football is what’s going to make or break our season.”
Before losses to Brisbane and Manly, the Warriors were soaring towards the NRL summit, having climbed from 15th to sixth since McFadden took over the reins in April.
Johnson’s absence is being felt by everyone. Five-eighth Chad Townsend was a bit-part player who spent most of his time in the NSW Cup before arriving at Mount Smart and needs to develop his skills as a backline conductor.
Thomas Leuluai, who was easing his way back from a groin injury as the reserve hooker, was thrust into the halfback role at the 11th hour last week and wasn’t always in sync with his runners on the right edge.
Konrad Hurrell was often handed the ball too late.
These are the areas the Warriors are looking to improve on.
With Warriors’ under-20s star Tuimoala Lolohea on the bench, there is potential to add strike power to the halves late in the game, but McFadden wants to first see the basics done well.