Lino shows promise despite heavy defeat
It probably won't make the list of great Telstra Premiership debuts, but Mason Lino showed enough in his first outing against the Cowboys to suggest he has something to offer the Warriors long term.
Given the call-up to play five-eighth in the place of Chad Townsend - who missed the game having battled sickness which temporarily hospitalised him mid-week - Lino was in the frontline as the Kiwi side were destroyed 50-16 by a rampant North Queensland outfit.
Along with several of his teammates on the night, the 2014 Holden Cup Premiership winner struggled defensively on a left edge which leaked five tries.
But in attack he was composed and accurate, setting up Ken Maumalo's try in the 9th minute with a clever grubber behind the defensive line and handling much of the team's general kicking duties.
Unlike Shaun Johnson and Tuimoala Lolohea - the only halves to advance through the Junior Warriors and play more than a handful of games for the club's NRL side - Lino isn't an athlete, he's a game manager.
Speaking to media after the match Lino said it had been a baptism of fire facing Johnathan Thurston in his first game, but that NRL football had been everything he expected.
"[It was a] disappointing result but I was keen to get out there, very excited, it was definitely what I expected," Lino said.
"It was tough, Thurston is a class player and he definitely picked on our edges a lot and they got the reward.
"It was good to be out there with the boys and experience what it is like to be an NRL player."
Less than a year ago Lino was so nearly lost to the game all together, after finishing his final year in the Holden Cup and being unable to pick up a contract at the Warriors or in Australia.
Initially set take up a contract with AS Carcassonne in France, he was thrown a lifeline by the Warriors after being forced to stay in Auckland to undergo surgery on the dislocated shoulder he sustained in the grand final win.
"Last year I was at a point where I was thinking about giving up, but luckily my parents supported me and put my head in the right place," Lino said.
"I stayed focussed and worked hard, and here I am today which is pretty cool.
"I am going to look at the review and see what I can work on as an individual and see if I can push forward for another spot."
A junior of the Marist club in Auckland - which has produced talents such as Sonny Bill Williams, Kalifa Faifai Loa and David Fusitu'a - Lino played two games for the club in Auckland's first division Fox Memorial competition this year, after completing his comeback from surgery.
"Mason was down with us doing extras before he was allowed to play and was one of the boys there for part of the season, he did plenty of rehab with us," Marist coach Brendon Douglas told NRL.com.
"It's awesome that our boys in our team can see a player play Fox Memorial this year and then make his debut.
"He has spent a lot of time under Stacey Jones and is a young player with an old head.
"Mason has got a big future and we are just really proud of him."