Johnson absence downplayed by Warriors

There’s no point pining for Shaun Johnson if the Warriors want to rescue an NRL campaign in serious freefall says coach Andrew McFadden.

A fourth successive absence from the finals since their 2011 grand final loss to Manly seems likely for the New Zealand club unless they can bounce back from a debilitating 36-0 loss to the Dragons.

A season that promised plenty hit its nadir on a freezing Saturday in Wellington.

McFadden couldn’t fathom his team’s incoherent attacking effort and was even more mystified by their lack of heart in a fourth successive loss, which he described as embarrassing.

“It’s probably a bit of a sign that some of our players are really struggling at the end of the year,” he said.

“We’re really struggling to score points and that’s putting a lot more pressure on us than we can probably cope with at the moment.”

The Warriors were held scoreless for the second time in four games, having previously suffered the indignity in 2009.

They have registered only four tries in their last four games, not helped by the absence of injured second-row pair Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson and versatile veteran Thomas Leuluai.

But for sheer impact, it’s hard to go past the season-ending broken ankle suffered by Kiwis halfback Johnson two weeks ago.

McFadden is keen to downplay the Johnson factor.

“Obviously Shaun would make a difference for us but he wouldn’t have made much of a difference in that performance.

“The way they just rolled through us and went the length of the field on us in the second half, it’s just not good enough. Shaun wouldn’t have stopped that.”

McFadden’s options beyond halves Tuimoala Lolohea and Chad Townsend are limited.

One backline change for their match against Penrith in Sydney next week could be the return of dropped centre Konrad Hurrell, whose power was missed against the Dragons.

Veteran winger Manu Vatuvei looks in danger of missing the game after aggravating the shoulder injury that has dogged him this season.

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