Jones wants young half to reignite Johnson

·2-min read

Stacey Jones hopes rookie five-eighth Ronald Volkman's debut can reinvigorate the form of struggling half Shaun Johnson as the Warriors count down the days to their return home.

Johnson's form has dipped dramatically at the Warriors this year, with the one-time pin-up boy of New Zealand rugby league left out of the Kiwis Test squad for next week.

Jones admitted this week Johnson's battles had been linked to off-field struggles, with his wife and daughter awaiting his return to New Zealand since last year.

The Warriors will finally return home to Auckland to play in a fortnight, with players flying back as early as the start of next week.

While they will still be based in Redcliffe for the rest of this year and fly-in, fly-out for Auckland games, the Warriors will spend the week before their July 3 homecoming training out of their Auckland base.

Jones' message to Johnson has largely been for the 31-year-old to get through this week, knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel with a full fortnight at home.

But he is also hoping Volkman's debut against Penrith can inspire some kind of change on the field, with the Warriors reeling from six straight losses and Nathan Brown's exit as coach last week.

"He's got a really good opportunity to help a kid out and establish himself as a footy player," Jones said.

"You shift a bit of focus now to help a kid start off with a good career.

"There will be more pressure on Shaun to get the team around the field. But he's got a good voice for that.

"We're not relying on Ronald for miracle plays, but we need something to give some energy around the group."

Interim coach Jones also claims Volkman's start will give the Warriors a more dynamic bench, with Chanel Harris-Tavita able to cover more positions as a utility.

He is also unconcerned by throwing 19-year-old Volkman in against Penrith.

Canterbury copped criticism earlier this year when they recalled Kyle Flanagan against the defending premiers, with claims they were setting the playmaker up to fail.

But Jones does not subscribe to that theory, impressed by what Volkman has done for Redcliffe in Queensland Cup since leaving the Sydney Roosters last month.

"He's got some confidence in his game," Jones said.

"I know we are coming up against a good team, but this is the NRL. Every team you come up against will be tough.

"When you give someone a debut, I reckon he will play with a lot of adrenaline. It's not going to faze him.

"What it does mean though against a team like Penrith is that other guys have to support him."

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