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'Everything was on the table': Barnett relieved to put neck scare behind him

After making a successful return to action in Saturday night's win over the Dolphins, Warriors forward Mitch Barnett revealed he feared a neck injury suffered in Round 3 would force him into early retirement.

The 29-year-old was hospitalised following the injury which occurred against the Cowboys back in March, and his recovery was further complicated due to previous fusion surgery on his neck in 2020. 

"Each scan was telling me something different and it was a bit of a process," Barnett said. 

"I didn’t really know what I was doing for about 4-5 weeks, everything was on the table and everything was up in the air.

Early on, yeah [I was worried about being forced into retirement], I’m not going to lie.

Mitch Barnett

"But that’s everything with your neck. I have had one fusion already, you can’t have two to two separate vertebrae, otherwise you are forced into retirement.

"You only get one opportunity with your neck. 

Saturday night was Barnett's first game back since injuring his neck in Round 3. ©NRL Photos
Saturday night was Barnett's first game back since injuring his neck in Round 3. ©NRL Photos

"But I'm very fortunate that I can still play and I am back. My neck is fine. Just a bit of pain management for now until I get back into the grind of things."

Barnett played 50 minutes off the bench in the 30-8 victory over the Dolphins in Auckland, carrying the ball 15 times for 147 metres and adding some much-needed experience to a bench missing Jazz Tevaga and Dylan Walker. 

It was one of several impressive individual performances for the Warriors, at what shapes as being crucial point of their season.

It assured the club will finish Round 14 inside the top eight ahead of playing back-to-back road games against the Raiders and Dragons, which come either side of a Round 16 bye.

After leading 6-4 at the break and struggling to break down the injury-hit Dolphins, it was some individual brilliance from Shaun Johnson which changed the game on 53 minutes. 

Johnson was red hot against the Dolphins

The veteran No.7 finished with two tries – his first NRL double in seven years – and 127 run metres, just days on from publicly announcing retirement remains on the cards for him at the end of this season. 

"It took Shaun to step and show everyone how to put the ball over the line, he will remind us of that all week," coach Andrew Webster joked post-match. 

"He was unbelievable... when he saw the opportunities, he wanted to take them. 

"The [second] try was the icing, but there were so many other things about Shaun's game that we good leading up to that moment."

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