FORAN OUT T O SHOCK CRITICS
THE Warriors have lost six straight games without Shaun Johnson. Three on the trot against the Cowboys, too.
And as if that isn’t motivation enough, the Cowboys will be steeling themselves for a fuming Kieran Foran hellbent on answering his growing critics.
The Kiwi international fiveeighth, bound for Canterbury next year, has been accused of “checking out early” by experts across the ditch and was extremely quiet in last week’s late fade- out to Penrith.
With halfback Johnson out for the year with a knee injury, Foran needs to step up to give the 11th- placed Warriors any chance of playing finals football.
“I think everyone here has had stages where we haven’t been at our best. To single out Kieran is pretty ordinary,” Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said this week.
“Has he been at his best? Absolutely not, but he’s not on his own. I don’t think he’s clocked off early.
“I thought he did some OK things early in the ( Panthers) contest and I’m not going to be really crticial of Kieran because as I keep saying, it’s a team performance.
“My expectation is you’ll see a better performance Kieran this week.”
Kearney said he was “pissed off” after watching his side wilt defensively against Penrith in the last 20 minutes.
They have conceded 112 points in their last three games against the Cowboys, who have won three straight without their playmaking talisman Johnathan Thurston.
Kearney backed Johnson’s replacement, Mason Lino, to step up as he readies for his fourth NRL match, and first since the end of 2015.
“Losing Shaun is not ideal but what it does do is give an opportunity for him to put his best effort forward. He’s been from doing a wonderful job in reserve grade,” Kearney said.
“He’s got a real calmness about him a really good kicking game and with his talk and organisation he’s come straight in and is bossing a few lads around.”
The Cowboys are set to be without winger Antonio Winterstein after coach Paul Green rated him as “doubtful” after picking up a calf injury in last week’s win over Souths.
Javid Bowen is expected to take his place on the left edge.
“I’d say he’s doubtful at this stage,” Green said. “We need as much experience out there as possible and will give him every chance.”