Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Warriors in battle to keep Hingano

Australian clubs are interested in signing Ata Hingano. Photo / photosport.nz
Australian clubs are interested in signing Ata Hingano. Photo / photosport.nz

The Warriors face a battle to keep Ata Hingano, with the promising half targeted by at least three other NRL clubs.

The teenager is far from a household name and has played only two NRL games. But he will come into the spotlight this week, set to start alongside Shaun Johnson in the halves next Sunday against Newcastle.

If that game goes well, Hingano will also be in the No6 jersey for the following match against the Storm at Mt Smart before Kieran Foran's expected return in round three.

The upcoming fortnight will be a chance for Hingano to demonstrate his talent, but Australian clubs have long been aware of his abilities.

The Herald on Sunday understands one high profile club, who are regular finals contenders, flew Hingano to Australia for meetings and a tour of their premises. At least two other clubs, including one Sydney outfit, are interested in the 19-year-old.

The interest is understandable. Although Hingano has seen a total of only 81 minutes of NRL action, after stints off the bench against the Cowboys and Tigers in 2016, he looked like someone who belonged at that level and is highly rated by many experts.

Foran might hold the key to Hingano's future. While the teenager will be happy to bide his time this year, and learn from the premiership winner, he may not want to be stuck in the queue behind Johnson and Foran in 2018 and beyond.

Hingano is unsigned beyond this season, and his management has put contract talks on hold until at least round six. The former Pakuranga Jaguars junior has no strong desire to leave his home town, but will keep his options open.

Playmakers are always in demand - and several clubs, including the Dragons, Titans, Broncos and Tigers could have vacancies in the halves in 2018.

"He's got an offer on the table from us," said Warriors recruitment manager Tony Iro. "We know there is interest from other clubs but we are comfortable where we are at with it and Ata is a big part of our plans."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has been impressed with Hingano's output since he arrived at the club.

"For a young guy - he can still play under-20s - he has got a very mature way about him," said Kearney.

"The way he plays his football, he's very sound defensively for a little-ish guy. He's had a really good pre-season [and] a couple of good trials, so I am very pleased with him."

- NZ Herald

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