Warriors strike weapons Konrad Hurrell and Manu Vatuvei want their enthusiasm on return to make an impact against the Sharks as they brace for life without Shaun Johnson.
The eighth-placed Warriors face a taxing six-game challenge to remain in the play-off zone without the services of match-winning halfback Johnson, whose season ended when his ankle snapped against Manly last week.
Versatile but inexperienced outside back Tuimoala Lolohea joins Chad Townsend in the halves for Saturday’s home clash against the sixth-placed Sharks.
They are charged with sparking a response to horror losses to the Roosters, 24-0, and Sea Eagles, 32-12.
The Warriors boast a more potent look-out wide through the return of powerhouse pair Hurrell and Vatuvei, from suspension and a shoulder injury respectively.
Hurrell says he can’t remember feeling as frustrated watching a game as during the second-half capitulation against Manly as the players struggled to come to grips with Johnson’s dramatic exit.
“Shaun’s one of the best players in the team, but we can’t hold back now that we’ve lost him,” he said.
“The coaches have picked 30-odd people in the squad and they picked them for a reason – because we can do a job. We all have to prove they were right.”
Injury and suspension have reduced Hurrell to just eight appearances from 18 games this season. He wants to make up for lost time and believes a top-four finish isn’t beyond them.
Vatuvei, who has scored 11 tries in 14 appearances this year, reckons he was fit enough to play last week, but heeded medical advice to miss a third successive game.
It left the club’s record try-scorer itching to make an impression.
“There were a few heads dropping (last week) but we just have to get on with it.
“With Tui coming into the halves it’s an exciting time for him and all of us.”
Townsend, who will joined the Sharks next year, relished the chance to link with the wrecking balls outside him.
“We all know what those two bring to the team. Even just starting our sets off, their powerful running is going to benefit us enormously.”
Injuries to Bodene Thomson and Ryan Hoffman, mean the Warriors are fielding a reshuffled forward pack, with stalwarts Simon Mannering and Ben Matulino both playing out of position in the second row.
They meet a Sharks pack missing in-form prop Andrew Fifita, who has been stood down by the club, along with twin brother David, pending further investigation into an alleged incident at a club match in Penrith last weekend.
The Sharks are coming off three wins, including gripping finishes away to the Raiders and Bulldogs in the past fortnight.