Hooker Nathan Friend is confident the Warriors can make it into the NRL finals despite losing their most potent attacking weapon.
Star playmaker Shaun Johnson will miss the rest of the season after suffering an ankle injury in the 32-12 loss to Manly in Auckland on Saturday night.
The mercurial half-back’s wretched luck occurred in the act of scoring a 25th-minute try that brought the Warriors back into the match.
Johnson had shown his trademark quick feet to breach the defence but got his left leg trapped in the tackle as he forced the ball down.
Tuimoala Lolohea’s conversion made the score 6-6 and it remained that way until halftime.
But the Sea Eagles ran away with it in the second spell, overcoming their own injury woes that left them with no reserves for the final quarter.
Despite a second successive heavy defeat, the Warriors will finish the round inside the top eight.
Friend believes they can stay there even without Johnson’s magic.
“For sure – we’ve trained all season with people in different positions so we all know the game plan,” he said.
“We just need to execute it out there on the field.”
The versatile Lolohea moved from centre into the halves after Johnson limped off and will be an option there against Cronulla next weekend.
Friend said the Warriors had tried to bounce back from their 24-0 loss to the Sydney Roosters in the previous round.
But they lacked energy, were below par in their kick-chase and allowed Manly to roll down the park.
“We didn’t have the numbers in the tackles to slow them down,” he said.
“They just rolled through us. They got 90-metre sets, unfortunately.”
Johnson’s injury didn’t help but Friend said the Warriors had trained to respond to such situations and there was disappointment in the dressing room afterwards.
“We were talking about our performance and how ordinary it was,” he said.
“Our standards were terrible. We need to turn that around and bring some energy at training this week.”