April 14, 2012
''There's a lot of room for improvement there'' … Shaun Johnson has endured a testing second season so far as the Warriors have stuttered in the opening rounds, winning only two of their first six matches. Photo: Getty Images
AUCKLAND: Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson isn't happy with his on-field leadership this season, but thinks he will do a lot better if his team can hang on to the ball.
The Warriors return to Mt Smart Stadium tomorrow after two poor away losses to take on South Sydney, who are on a roll with two consecutive victories. Johnson was impressive when helping the Warriors to the grand final in his rookie season last year but isn't happy with either his or his team's efforts in their meek surrenders to Sydney Roosters and Canberra in the past two weeks.
''There's a lot of room for improvement there, but it'd certainly help if we could complete a few more sets and hold the ball to get through our sets,'' he said.
''If we turn the ball over far too much and far too early in the tackle count, it just forces us to make a lot more tackles than they would and it's not good. It's so much harder for a half to get involved in a game when all you're doing is defending.''
Johnson said the team was determined to improve in front of their home fans but is wary of the threat the Rabbitohs present out wide.
''They've got a couple of really good back-rowers in Dave Taylor and Eddy Pettybourne, so it's important for our edges to really aim up this weekend,'' he said. ''We've been letting our middle boys down over the last couple of weeks so we've got to really focus on that.''
The Warriors haven't been helped through injuries to experienced players Micheal Luck and Jacob Lillyman, and they received another setback on Thursday when fullback Kevin Locke was ruled out after his injured leg failed to recover in time for tomorrow's game. He will be replaced by utility Krisnan Inu.
Meanwhile, Souths coach Michael Maguire is confident that his winger-turned-front-rower Dave Tyrrell is good enough to handle the Warriors' giant pack.
Souths' dwindling forward stocks took a further hit last Friday with Roy Asotasi tearing a pectoral muscle to join injured props Sam Burgess and Luke Burgess on the sidelines. It has forced Maguire to start Tyrrell, who joined the club in 2008 as winger, in the front row for the first time in his NRL career.
But the Maguire believes he's up to the task of facing Ben Matulino, Russell Packer and company.
The young Queenslander has switched between the front and back row from the bench this season, and the former Wigan coach said Tyrrell fully deserves his place in the run-on side.
''Dave has been growing in each game, he worked really hard in pre-season and it's one bloke who has been in the background and gone a bit unrecognised,'' Maguire said.
''He's been coming off the bench and playing some good footy and now he has got his opportunity … and I am looking forward to see how he goes … he deserves all the rewards he gets as he's worked really hard.''