The Press

Johnson expects Lino to step up

- MARVIN FRANCE

Shaun Johnson says Mason Lino has the mentality to thrive in his absence as the Warriors and Kiwis star spoke of his relief at being cleared of a season-ending knee injury.

Johnson was left preparing for six months on the sidelines on Friday after he collapsed to the turf during the defeat to Penrith, with the initial diagnosis suggesting he had ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament.

However, scans on Monday revealed the damage was confined to the posterior cruciate ligament, ruling the 26-year-old out for six to eight weeks meaning he could return before the end of the NRL season as well as be available for the World Cup.

‘‘I was in shock more than anything. I didn’t really know what happened, I was just running and then it gave way,’’ Johnson said.

With just seven games left and his team-mates needing to win at least five of those to have a chance of making the finals, the Warriors’ season may very well be over by the time Johnson is cleared to play. But he could return sooner than expected.

The 21-test Kiwi does not require surgery and was walking freely without crutches at yesterday’s media session. He was reluctant to target a return date but a key appointmen­t with the specialist in two weeks should give him a better idea.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney sprung a surprise by naming Lino as Johnson’s replacemen­t ahead of Ata Hingano for Saturday’s crucial clash against the in-form Cowboys.

Johnson, though, has full faith that his training partner can direct the team around the park.

‘‘We need to head up there with an attitude of grinding out a game, not going tit for tat and scoring 30 to 28 or whatever - it’s just not good enough in this comp,’’ Johnson said.

‘‘And Mase, with his calming influence and his ability to get the ball in the in-goal, will help us do that.’’

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