NRL: NZ Warriors coach Andrew Webster undecided on Shaun Johnson's 2024 halves partner

While Shaun Johnson is locked in to be NZ Warriors' first-choice in the No.7 jersey for this year's NRL season, just who lines up alongside him is still anyone's guess.  

With the club's first game of the 2024 season - against Cronulla Sharks on March 8 - getting closer by the day, the Warriors pre-season concludes on Saturday, against the Dolphins in their second trial match.  

Last weekend, a largely rotated Warriors side took the field against Wests Tigers at Christchurch, but this week will see a close-to-first-choice team take the field.

Luke Metcalf.
Luke Metcalf. Photo credit: Photosport

Luke Metcalf will don the No.6 next to Johnson, moving infield to five-eighth, after starting at halfback against the Tigers. He would appear to have the inside running on the race to partner Johnson, but coach Andrew Webster concedes that spot is far from sewn up.  

The duo of Te Maire Martin and Chanel Harris-Tavita have both been named on an extended bench to face the Dolphins, and with three quality options to pick from, Webster is grateful for the choice he'll have to make as to who to leave out to start the season.  

"It's tough, but it's a good headache," said Webster. "It's something you want at each club, a headache.

"You've got three really good players who could be No.6. Who do you pick?

"Everyone says 'poor me'. I'd rather that than have no one to pick and not know what to do.

Chanel Harris-Tavita is back with the Warriors.
Chanel Harris-Tavita is back with the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

While Johnson was an ever-present in the Warriors side in their 2023 run and came within a whisker of the NRL's Dally M Nedal, his halves partners - for one reason or another - didn't have the same luxury.  

Martin, 28, started the season at No.6, but suffered a broken leg that sidelined him for most of 2023. Despite being the senior five-eighth on the Warriors books, he played just nine games and assisted two tries.  

Meanwhile, in his first season with the club, Metcalf also endured a frustrating year. After an impressive pre-season display against the Tigers, he didn't debut until round 13.  

Once he was back on the field, Metcalf didn't look back. In 12 games, Metcalf scored six tries and assisted three more, before his season ended prematurely by a hamstring complaint and he missed the Warriors' playoffs campaign.

On the other hand, Harris-Tavita didn't play at all in 2023, after taking a year out of rugby league, but after breaking into the NRL from the Warriors junior ranks, the club re-signed him as soon as he was ready to come back.  

Still only 24, Harris-Tavita has played 54 times for the Warriors, scored seven tries and assisted 17, with most of those coming in Johnson's absence, after his move to Cronulla Sharks in 2019. 

Join Newshub at 5:45pm Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Dolphins pre-season game