There's probably more chance of Donald Trump promoting guacamole as America's national dish.

But it's time for Steve Kearney to make the biggest call of his career and promote Mason Lino into the Warriors starters ahead of over rated superstar Shaun Johnson.

Lino has, quite staggeringly, proved he is the future of this club, and the future is now.

Read more:
Mason Lino steps up in win over Dragons


To use a cricket analogy, Johnson is like a big fancy outswinger which misses the edge. Lino is the less obvious but better calculated delivery, which sends the batsman on his way.

Friday night's victory over the Dragons was a very special one in the history of the Warriors. Like it or not, the Warriors must accept they are in the title winning conversation.

Kearney had every right to be celebrating maybe the best win of his coaching career and let's face it, when it comes to Kearney's NRL record there isn't much to beat.

It was a sensational effort - particularly following the early departure of Tohu Harris - based on defensive fury.

There is the slide defence and the up-and-in defence and then there is the "let's all go crazy" system, which is what the Warriors used as they responded to a big crowd going berserk.

The straight-aim Lino has now figured in the two best wins of the season, helping drive the surprise smashing of the Roosters in Sydney and ending the Dragons unbeaten record. That is more than coincidence.

There wasn't a lot of finesse to the Warriors victory this time. But there is terrific heart in that team, and they wore that heart on their sleeve. The Dragons didn't know what to do at times.

And when a chance fell his way, thanks to some Adam Blair opportunism, little Lino struck to find the tryline like an experienced half in his prime.


I have spent years trying to fall in love with Johnson's game but came to see him as central to the club's problems rather than — as was perhaps the initial case — a victim of being too good in New Zealand's inferior junior football systems.

It is still hard to trust his game, despite the obvious and extreme gifts which include extraordinary stepping ability. He must be a nightmare to defend against, and yet he will always give teams another chance. Now the 27-year-old is injury prone, in and out.

To be fair to Johnson, he has really upped his defence. But Lino has a fantastic attitude - when the Dragons bombed a try down the left flank early on you couldn't help but notice it was the little halfback who was flying across in cover.

And I've got to confess, Johnson's petulant "yous got your way" barb at critics after the Kiwis World Cup disaster hasn't helped.

Apart from turning me against him on an emotional level, it suggests a lack of perspective in Johnson which might be why he has struggled to turn all that incredible promise into something extraordinary. Lino has not only been doing a fantastic job on limited, late-notice opportunity, but he is a player you want to barrack for. Maybe he also helps draw the best out of team mates.

And the Warriors already have one maverick on the field - middle forward Adam Blair.

Blair's workrate-per-dollar wouldn't make for great reading, but the Kiwi captain has the knack for great plays with and without the ball.

He has, no doubt, had a great effect on the club in general along with others such as a new fitness trainer.

The Warriors have undergone a staggering personality transplant under their phlegmatic coach Kearney. Blokes like Bunty Afoa are unrecognisable from players who looked shackled and intimidated last year.

Success goes in short cycles in the NRL - the great Melbourne dynasty apart - and so this is, unexpectedly, a season in which the Warriors should aim to make hay while the sun shines.

Kearney can go with the flow and take the transformation one giant step further.

Poster boy Johnson would make a great interchange player. It's not going to happen of course.

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