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Warriors keen to move on against Panthers

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/05/2016 Robert Lowe

After two weeks of off-field drama, the Warriors will finally get to switch their focus back to NRL action when they run out against the Penrith Panthers in Christchurch.

The Warriors face the Panthers on Saturday, with coach Andrew McFadden and his players eager to put the breach-of-protocol saga behind them.

Six players were dropped to reserve grade after a late night out that brought allegations that five of them had mixed prescriptions drugs with energy drinks.

With the group having served their punishment, two of them, prop Ben Matulino and back-rower Bodene Thompson, have been recalled to the match-day squad against Penrith.

Halfback Shaun Johnson, who was on Kiwis duty last week, admits he was shocked when told of the incident.

"It's something we got talked to about, but those boys have been dealt with," he said.

"I know they're sorry for how things panned out. They just want to get back to playing footy. As far as I'm concerned, that's all we should be focusing on."

The incident, which came after a 42-0 thumping by at the hands of Melbourne, overshadowed the 26-10 win by a patched-up Warriors side over St George Illawarra before last weekend's representative round.

Three of the late reinforcements brought into the starting 13 against the Dragons - hooker Jazz Tevaga, prop James Gavet and lock John Palavi - have retained their spots.

"A lot has gone on, but you've seen the boys come in at a tough time and do a terrific job," Johnson said.

"I don't think we've given them enough credit for that and it's cool to see them rewarded with a second chance."

For all the Warriors' issues this season, including an 0-3 start that heaped pressure on coach Andrew McFadden, they have inched their way back to 10th on the ladder and are separated by just point differential from eight-placed Penrith.

The Panthers are also coming off a win, a late Peter Wallace field goal securing a 19-18 result over Canberra.

The match at the 18,000-capacity AMI Stadium is a home fixture for the Sydney club, who have been rewarded with a sell-out.

It also marks the NRL's return to Christchurch since the devastating 2011 earthquake that led to demise of Lancaster Park, which staged the five previous NRL games.

The city continues to shake, and the Panthers got a taste on Wednesday night when a 4.7-magnitude quake struck the region.


* Penrith and the Warriors are tied at eight wins each in meetings in New Zealand.

* The Warriors should prepare for a tight finish - Penrith's nine matches this season have been decided by an average margin of three points.

* The Panthers have missed almost 39 tackles a match this year, the highest average in the NRL.

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