David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Confident Hingano auditions for role

Nathaniel Roache and Simon Mannering of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Nathaniel Roache and Simon Mannering of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

Rookie Warriors playmaker Mafoa'aeata Hingano is looking to make his mark off the bench in tomorrow's crucial NRL clash against Wests Tigers as he has his sights set firmly on earning a starting spot for next season.

The 19-year-old was a surprise inclusion on the interchange bench in his debut outing against North Queensland in Townsville last weekend and will make his second appearance at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Junior Kiwis halfback is still eligible to play under-20s next season but was not overawed when an injury to wing Ken Maumalo saw him thrust into the five-eighth role against the reigning premiers after just 17 minutes.

Even the daunting prospect of opposing Cowboys captain and four-time Dally M winner Johnathan Thurston did not faze him. Hingano got involved quickly before putting captain Ryan Hoffman over for the Warriors' only try in the 34-6 defeat.

"It was a buzz just being on the same field as him (Thurston)," said Hingano.

"It's a bit confusing because you don't know what he'll do, knowing the kind of player he is.

"He puts you in two minds all of the time. It was good for me to even get a grab on him and tackle him a few times and I was buzzing out on that."

While the likes of fellow halves hopefuls Tui Lolohea and Mason Lino are well known to Warriors fans, coach Andrew McFadden has been patient in allowing the youngster to hone his game in the lower grades.

"He's a very talented player and someone we've been keeping a very close eye on and making sure he develops nicely," said McFadden.

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"He's got a big future so it's certainly a good position for us to be in."

The Pakuranga Jaguars junior has a reputation as a composed organiser but perhaps his most impressive attribute is his willingness to test the defensive line.

Having served his apprenticeship in the NYC competition and reserve grade, Hingano says he was prepared for the physicality and increased pace of first-grade football.

"Playing with the (NSW) Cup squad, it's pretty much the same level, playing with men," he said.

"So when I'm playing down there I like to try things and really take the ball on and attack well.

"There will be times in the game when we're under the pump and as a half you can't rely on just organising, you've got to take the line on."

Hingano is determined to prove he is capable of filling the boots of departing five-eighth Thomas Leuluai next season.

"That's all of the halves' goal, but being in the position that I'm in now, I want to take it with both hands and get that starting spot."

- NZ Herald

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