Called upon to make his first grade debut at late notice, marking up against the best player in the world, Warriors rookie Ata Hingano took comfort in seeing a couple of familiar faces in the crowd last Saturday.
After confirmation arrived late in the week that he would make his NRL Telstra Premiership debut against Johnathan Thurston's Cowboys in Townsville, the 19-year-old playmaker's dad Viliami and little sister Cindy, 7, jumped straight online to book last-minute flights across the ditch to witness the occasion live.
"When I debuted to have my dad and my little sister travel up… It was definitely good to have her there," Hingano said ahead of his second NRL appearance against the Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
"She is the loudest supporter in my family as well, so I have no doubt she will be the loudest when she comes here for the game on the weekend.
"The staff were able to bring them down to the sheds [after the game], and as always me and dad reflected on the game quickly and then just left it there and enjoyed the moment.
"Running on the field and realising I am only here because of them – all the sacrifices they made for me – it shows me that it has all paid off.
"I have played league my whole life, growing up playing for (east Auckland club) Pakuranga… Dad has always been my coach since then, and it's all because of him that I am here today.
"All the 'growlings' and the extras he has made me do, it's paid off."
After coming off the bench Hingano played 63 minutes in the halves, running the ball eight times for 74 metres and breaking the line once in a 34-6 loss.
Faced with a must-win game against the Tigers this weekend, Hingano said he hoped to increase his involvement and tidy up his work on the ball, after making a pair of handling errors against North Queensland.
"I guess what I liked about myself last weekend was that I tried to involve myself, whether just running or being out the back pushing for supports off our middles, but what I didn't like was the two errors I cost us," Hingano said.
"I guess playing with the Cup (Intrust Super Premiership) squad it's pretty much the same deal playing against men, so when I am playing down there I like to try things and really take the ball on and attack well.
"There will be times in a game where we are under the pump and as a half sometimes you can't rely on just organising."
His inclusion ahead of Tuimoala Lolohea – who made a try-scoring appearance for the club's reserve side over the weekend – was a clear sign of the confidence coach Andrew McFadden has in Hingano, and again this week he is likely to play in the halves ahead of Lolohea, who will bide his time on the right wing.
The departure of veteran five-eighth Thomas Leuluai to the Super League at the end of the season will leave a void in the No.6 jersey at the club, with Leuluai believing Hingano is now ready to challenge Lolohea for the spot.
"I thought he (Hingano) was really good, I knew he would be to be honest, I have always thought he was a great talent," Leuluai said.
"He attacks the line really hard and I don’t think I was worried about him getting overawed by the occasion or anything like that.
"I knew he would play well and I thought for a young kid in really tough conditions that he really stood up.
"100 per cent (he is a chance to play five-eighth in 2017), why wouldn’t he be?"
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