First Warriors audition for Hingano
Many have him earmarked as the long-term partner to Shaun Johnson in the Warriors halves, and Ata Hingano can't wait for his first opportunity to play alongside the superstar No.7 at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
The 18-year-old was named the Junior Warriors' rookie of the year in 2015 and after spending two years training with Johnson and the rest of the Telstra Premiership squad will get his first chance to take the field with them in a competitive match this weekend at Eden Park.
"At first I was feeling nervous, but being around big players like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun you can't not be excited about it," Hingano said of his Nines debut.
"I am definitely looking forward to it (playing with Johnson), and also with Tui Lolohea as well.
"With Shaun being one of the best halves in our game, I can't wait to play alongside him."
It is a golden time to be a young half coming into the system at the Warriors, given the club has experienced Kiwi internationals like Johnson and Thomas Leuluai as well 12-season veteran Jeff Robson around to offer advice and guidance.
According to Hingano – who combines playing with working through a business studies course run by the club – one-on-one discussions with those players forms a key part of his development plan as he looks to push for an NRL opportunity in 2016.
"I have been doing pre-season with them for two years now and training alongside Shaun and Thomas Leuluai, having them mentoring me as well definitely helps," he said.
"It's always technical stuff, they are breaking down how the game works and how it's played.
"It just makes my job easier having Shaun mentoring me, sitting down with me every day watching video and telling me how to improve.
"Like every half I try to bring to the game organisation and stability in the team, as well as good control.
"The main goal this year is making the NRL, but predominantly I just want to play consistent footy, whether it's NSW Cup or 20s."
With the Warriors lining up alongside the Bulldogs in the Hunua Pool, Hingano looks set to come up against former Junior Warriors teammate Bradley Abbey, who he played most of his junior footy alongside at Auckland club the Pakuranga Jaguars.
After moving to Sydney at the end of last season Abbey will face his former club in his first match for the Bulldogs, with the two sides meeting in the fifth game of the day on Saturday.