NRL News: Depleted Warriors sweat on Johnson scans, losing streak turns up heat on Payten


The Warriors are confident Shaun Johnson has not ruptured a pectoral muscle after he failed to finish the club’s 38-18 loss to the Sydney Roosters.

Johnson appeared to battle through significant pain in the Warriors’ fourth straight defeat, before leaving the field with around 14 minutes to go.

The halfback’s injury comes just days after Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tore his hamstring at Warriors training, leaving him out for up to six weeks.

Any serious pectoral injury would leave large question marks over Johnson’s future.

The 34-year-old is off contract at the end of this year, and a ruptured pectoral would have the potential of ending his season early.

But after leaving Johnson on the field for the majority of the game, coach Andrew Webster is not that concerned.

“If there was going to be an issue there or going to end with a ruptured pec, I wouldn’t have had him stay on the field,” Webster said.

“I don’t know if he’s good for next week. He battled on at halftime. It was a tough conversation.

“He said ‘I want to go and fight here’, and I’m really proud of him, the way he wanted to do that. 

“But yeah, as a result of where he’s at next week or anything like that, or how long if he’s out at all, I don’t know yet.

“He’s very sore at the moment. It started hurting him when he was passing the footy and things like that.” 

The Warriors are hopeful of having five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tevita available next week to replace Johnson against Penrith, if needed.

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

But what is clear is the club must turn things around fast.

While they were the fairytale story of the NRL last year, 2024 has quickly turned into a horror show with three victories from their opening 10 games.

A loss next week to the three-time defending premiers Penrith would leave their season firmly in the balance, with serious doubts over whether they can recover.

The Warriors did well to keep the scoreboard somewhat respectable on Sunday at Allianz Stadium, but were never in the contest after conceding four tries in 10 minutes early.

“We’re lacking confidence,” Webster said. “I’m not going to gloss over it. It starts with me. I’ve go to find a way to get these boys confident and believe in how good they can be. 

“Because when something went bad there early, it took a while for us to really put our feet in the ground and stop it

“It was a juggernaut coming at us and we (should be) good enough to stop it, add resistance and turn them away.”

Cowboys spiralling down ladder

North Queensland coach Todd Payten concedes he faces one of the toughest challenges of his coaching career after the Cowboys lost their fifth consecutive match.

The 20-18 away loss to Gold Coast on Sunday has the Townsville-based side mired in 12th after they were second following their 35-22 home win over the same opponents in round five.

The losing streak is their worst since 2021, when in Payten’s first season at the helm they suffered 10 consecutive defeats.

“It is up there as a challenge. I wouldn’t say it is the greatest … but it is not just going to click,” Payten said.

“We need to fight and scrap our way to victory and that is with an 80-minute effort. It is about getting the first one out of the road and building on that.” 

The Cowboys have a chance to get back in the winners circle at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday when they face last-placed South Sydney.

They are conceding far too many tries through the middle of the field and to allow the barge-over effort by David Fifita near the line in the first half was unacceptable for an NRL outfit.

The Cowboys look on from the in-goal after a Dolphins try. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Payten said his side showed fighting spirit to almost snatch a victory but had got themselves “in a hole” when they trailed 20-0 at halftime.

“We are sitting here after five losses on the trot and we haven’t got anyone else to blame,” Payten said.

“I know the only way out of it is to get our heads down, work really hard and stay tight as a group. We saw in the second half that the care, fight and resilience is there.

“That is the message I gave the team. It is about sticking together and prioritising our profession.”

There is nothing wrong with the Cowboys roster with Queensland representatives Val Holmes, Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden all on the park against the Titans. 

Hooker Reece Robson has represented NSW and fullback Scott Drinkwater was a Blues 18th man last year.

“Games aren’t won on paper. They are won on determination, attitude and resilience. We are just falling short in different areas,” Payten said.

The Cowboys won four of their first five games but were loose defensively in several of those victories.

“I think they were soft wins to be fair and wallpapered some of our defensive stuff,” he said.

“When we played the better teams we couldn’t get it done. Defensively, our mindset around stopping tries has got to improve.”

with AAP

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