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'He needs to be there for the birth': Warriors planning to face Eels without Johnson

Warriors coach Andrew Webster is confident there will be minimal disruption to his side if Shaun Johnson is a late withdrawal for Saturday night's clash with the Eels. 

With Johnson and wife Kayla expecting the birth of their second child any day now, the veteran halfback will be given up until the team flies out for Sydney on Friday night to decide whether or not he will make the trip. 

A relaxed Webster told media on Wednesday that if Johnson does fail to take the field for the first time this season, the contingency plan put in place will leave his side with no room for excuses. 

Utility Dylan Walker shapes as the likely replacement if required, having started four games alongside Johnson in the halves earlier this season, while second-year playmaker Ronald Volkman has also been included in the reserves and could be called in.

Outstanding SJ at it again

"I am open to it [being a call on Friday] and the reason why I am open to it is we have got a plan and know what we are going to do if he doesn't come," Webster said. 

"Often this year we haven't had every player available and we have done a good job, so I can't see why we can't do it again. 

"We have got a plan for both scenarios, so we have got no excuses either way. 

We are confident we know what we are doing, I just don't want to tell people. I want Parramatta to have to think about it. 

Andrew Webster

"It's down to Mother Nature.... no-one is going begrudge someone [choosing] the birth of their child [over footy]."

Johnson – who has played all 16 of the Warriors' games this year – is due to make his 200th appearance for the club at CommBank Stadium on the same night teammates Dylan Walker, Addin Fonua-Blake and Wayde Egan celebrate their 200th, 150th and 100th career games respectively. 

If he doesn't play he's set to instead bring up the milestone back on home soil in Round 20, ironically against his former side Cronulla. 

The 32-year-old has been among the club's best players so far in 2023 and heads into Round 19 averaging a competition-high 533 kick metres per game and having set up 16 tries. 

Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan told SEN NZ that the club was comfortable either way regarding Johnson's availability, with a decision to be made Friday morning following a consultation with a specialist.

"Tomorrow is D-Day a little bit for him," Morgan said on Thursday. "He's off with his lovely wife to the specialist and they'll give some feedback on how far away they're expecting the birth.

"It's a big moment in anyone's life. 

If he has to stay back then he's got 100% of our support – he needs to be there for the birth.

Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan

But, if he gets the all clear from the doctors that it might still be 4-5 days away, then he'll definitely come out and play.

"Who knows, the baby might pop out before Saturday!

"We've got a couple of scenarios if Shaun doesn't make the trip or has to come back or whatever the situation is. We've practiced a few combinations so that we're comfortable that whoever plays halfback will have had enough practice this week."  

The Warriors are yet to taste victory at CommBank Stadium in their three prior trips, while it's been over five years since they last beat the Eels. 

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