NRL: Shaun Johnson will lead Warriors to title - Graham Lowe

Rugby league guru Graham Lowe believes Shaun Johnson will take his game to a new level during the NRL playoffs and lead the NZ Warriors to their maiden title.

The Warriors will play their first playoff match since 2011 on Saturday against the Penrith Panthers at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.

It will be a tough test for the Auckland-based side, who haven't beaten the Panthers in Australia since 2012.

But they head into the match full of confidence, having won four of their last five games - the equal best record in the NRL - and one of those wins was against the Panthers a fortnight ago in Auckland.

Johnson, along with Simon Mannering, are the only players left from the 2011 squad that last played in the finals with the Warriors.

Back then, the Kiwis international was in his first season and now he has more than 150 games of experience under his belt.

Graham Lowe.
Graham Lowe. Photo credit: AM Show

If he can lift his game, Lowe, a former Kiwis coach, thinks the Warriors will raise the Provan-Summons Trophy on September 30. 

"Shaun Johnson has had more pressure on him, compared to other sportsmen I've seen in this country," Lowe told The AM Show.

"Sometimes he's handled it and sometimes he hasn't, but he's a mature person now and he will deliver, I have no doubt.

"I think they [the Warriors] can go all the way. They've got the talent, they've got the balance in the side and if they approach it in the right manner each week, I believe they can win the Grand Final." 

Lowe isn't the only one picking the Warriors to win it all, with Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, commentator Greg Alexander, and former Queensland Maroons representative Billy Moore all backing the Stephen Kearney's men to go all the way.

Lowe has often criticised the Warriors in the past for failing to live up to expectations, but admits things are different this time around.

During the off-season, they added experienced players who have all had a significant impact to the success of the side.

 NRL: Shaun Johnson will lead Warriors to title - Graham Lowe

Five-eighth Blake Green has helped take pressure off Johnson in the halves, while Adam Blair, Agnatius Paasi and Tohu Harris have all been immense in the forward pack.

"What has disappointed me in the past is that they've had the talent, but they haven't delivered, but they have the mixture right at the moment," Lowe added. 

"I'm very interested to see how well they go, because I truly believe they can win the Grand Final.

"It is about becoming a team and that is what they're doing now."


Join us at 7:40pm Saturday for live updates of the Warriors vs Penrith NRL playoff clash in Sydney.