Lino learning from the best
For a young half in the Telstra Premiership there are few better people to learn your trade from than Warriors legend Stacey Jones.
Widely regarded as one of the best halfbacks to play the game in the last 20 years, Jones made 261 appearances for the club and still holds records at the Warriors for the most games and points (674).
Now coach of the Warriors' NSW Cup squad, Jones has been responsible for bringing through the latest home-grown playmaker to step up to the Telstra Premiership, with 21-year-old Mason Lino set to make his second NRL appearance this Sunday against the Wests Tigers.
After guiding the Junior Warriors side – which Lino co-captained – to the Holden Cup title last year, Jones moved across to the NSW Cup side, taking the talented playmaker with him.
Following his NRL debut in the 50-16 thrashing at the hands of the Cowboys last Saturday, Lino said Jones had been a pivotal figure in his development so far, helping him to simplify what can be an extremely complicated position on the field.
"I think Stacey has definitely helped me read the game a lot better," Lino said.
"Especially in situations where I really wouldn't know what to do without him, he has definitely opened me up to running the ball a bit more and taking the line on.
"He has given me a new insight into the game and I am looking at it from a different angle kind of thing.
"He has definitely helped me simplify my game and help me read it better."
After contributing a try assist off a well-weighted grubber early in the game, Lino endured a torrid night along with the rest of the Warriors' left edge, who were exposed badly by the brilliance of Johnathan Thurston.
But the Marist Saints junior showed enough to make sure he was retained in the side, with veteran hooker Nathan Friend encouraged by what he saw.
"Obviously Mason was worthy of his selection and he proved that on attack," Friend told NRL.com.
"He was up against one of the greats who really controlled our game the other night.
"We only had [37 percent] possession and that was because of the halfback [Thurston], and hopefully Mason can learn from that and see how the game is supposed to be dominated by a half.
"Mason has got the right attributes and is good with the ball on his foot, but like the rest of us it's his defence he needs to work on, both with the guys around him and his personal defence with being a little guy."
It has been an impressive rise for Lino, who contemplated giving up on his dream earlier this year following a dislocated shoulder sustained in the 2014 Holden Cup Grand Final.
The injury saw his deal with AS Carcassonne in France fall through for this season, and after being thrown a lifeline by the Warriors he had to fight his way back via games in the Auckland club competition.
"At the start of the year when I was still in rehab I didn't think anything was coming," Lino said.
"But I had good support around me with my family, friends and my partner, they definitely helped me put my head down and work really hard to try and get into that [NSW] Cup squad and play some good footy.
"When I did the shoulder it was pretty tough for me. I thought this is it, I was pretty much at the point of giving up.
"It's a bit buzzy you know, I didn't think I would be playing NRL this year, I thought I would just have a few NSW Cup games."