New Zealand Warriors star half Shaun Johnson has apologised to the club's fan base for their preliminary final performance as the club fell short of a spot in the grand final at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos.
After a season built around defensive resolve and entertaining rugby league, the Warriors were shut out of their clash against the Brisbane Broncos, unable to stem the flow of points or find enough of their own despite jumping out to an early lead.
In the end, the Warriors conceded 40 points and were well out of the contest during the second half.
The Auckland-based side, in their first season under Andrew Webster and in their first full season back at home after the COVID pandemic forced them to move to Australia, have lost no fans following an incredible season though.
Given the Warriors entered the season widely tipped as one of the competition's bottom teams, their preliminary final run came as a shock to most.
Despite that, Shaun Johnson told Channel 9 post-game that he was sorry for the club's performance, while also admitting that the Broncos had a real chance of knocking the Penrith Panthers over in next Sunday's grand final.
“(I'm) disappointed, but full credit to the Broncos, they were sharp tonight, I thought they played really fast and I think they're going to go pretty well next week,” Johnson said to Nine.
“The turnaround has been massive obviously for the club to be able to go back home and I think rugby league in New Zealand is popping off right now.
“I want to say to all our fans and members, they supported us all year long, sorry we let you down tonight.
“But the love and support we've received has just been amazing and the playing group certainly appreciated it.”
Brisbane belted the Warriors from pillar to post during the game, in what was a frenetic opening with seven tries in the opening half an hour, before a controversial Reece Walsh forward pass was overlooked to help the Broncos skip away further in the second half.
The Broncos will clash with the Penrith Panthers next Sunday in the 2023 season decider.