After two weeks of off-field drama, the Warriors will finally get to switch their focus back to NRL action when they run out against Penrith in Christchurch.
Coach Andrew McFadden and his players will attempt to put the breach-of-protocol saga behind them, after six players were dropped as punishment for a late night that included allegations that five of them had mixed prescriptions drugs with energy drinks.
With the group having served their punishment, prop Ben Matulino and back-rower Bodene Thompson have been recalled to the match-day squad against Penrith.
Halfback Shaun Johnson, who was on Kiwis duty last week, says the team is trying to move on from the incident.
“It’s something we got talked to about, but those boys have been dealt with,” he said.
“I know they’re sorry for how things panned out. They just want to get back to playing footy. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all we should be focusing on.”
The incident, which came after a 42-0 thumping at the hands of Melbourne, overshadowed the 26-10 win by a patched-up Warriors side over St George Illawarra before last weekend’s representative round.
Three of the late reinforcements against the Dragons – hooker Jazz Tevaga, prop James Gavet and lock John Palavi – retained their spots.
“A lot has gone on, but you’ve seen the boys come in at a tough time and do a terrific job,” Johnson said.
“I don’t think we’ve given them enough credit for that and it’s cool to see them rewarded with a second chance.”
For all the Warriors’ issues this season, including an 0-3 start that heaped pressure on coach Andrew McFadden, they have inched their way back to 10th on the ladder.
Should they beat the Panthers, and Manly lose to Brisbane on Saturday night, the Warriors will end the weekend in the NRL top eight.
Like the Warriors, the Panthers are also coming off a win, a late Peter Wallace field goal securing a 19-18 result over Canberra.
The match at the 18,000-capacity AMI Stadium is a home fixture for the Sydney club, who have been rewarded with a sell-out.
It also marks the NRL’s return to Christchurch since the devastating 2011 earthquake that led to demise of Lancaster Park, which staged the five previous NRL games.
The city continues to shake, and the Panthers got a taste on Wednesday night when a 4.7-magnitude quake struck the region.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Penrith and the Warriors are tied at eight wins each in meetings in New Zealand.
* The Warriors should prepare for a tight finish – Penrith’s nine matches this season have been decided by an average margin of three points.
* The Panthers have missed almost 39 tackles a match this year, the highest average in the NRL.