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Johnson not playing on Nines day one

NZN 4/02/2017 Matt Encarnacion

The Warriors have made no apologies for not risking Auckland Nines drawcard Shaun Johnson on day one of the tournament, and insist he could play on Sunday.

Johnson played no part in either of the Warriors' two losses on Saturday after suffering a groin injury in the warm-up for their first clash against Manly, but he could yet feature in a day two dead rubber against St George Illawarra.

"He's integral to promoting the game in New Zealand and around the world, so if Shaun's available and fit, we'll give him that opportunity to play," Warriors nines coach Steve McNamara said.

Johnson had been a regular feature in the shortened format since its inception in 2014, and was again the face of a Warriors squad that lacked the pulling power of recent years.

McNamara, deputising for new head coach Stephen Kearney at the nines, admitted the club had previously felt a responsibility to field their big names for the event.

"But we make no mistake, from day one we made it clear that we're preparing for the NRL competition and some other teams are in the same position as us," he said.

"Some have got some very strong squads, some have got some weaker squads and I suppose simply because we're the home team, it does make it more difficult for ourselves.

"But sometimes you have to make the tough decisions placed on what was right for our squad and team going forward."

Meanwhile, South Sydney centre Aaron Gray was the other major injury casualty on the opening day, suffering a knee injury that puts him in severe doubt for round one of the NRL competition.

Gray limped off Eden Park in the first half of the Rabbitohs' tournament-opening loss to Canberra, and it was later confirmed by the club doctor he has a medial ligament injury.

St George Illawarra duo Matt Dufty (knee) and Patrick Herbert (foot) also copped issues.

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