He has had to bide his time in reserve grade for a number of years and will likely start this season there again, but Warriors’ half Mason Lino is pushing harder than ever for a regular spot in the Telstra Premiership.
For the first time, Lino captained the Warriors in their 20-14 win over a depleted Melbourne Storm side in yesterday’s trial in Rotorua.
After an indifferent start to the match, the 24-year-old put in a strong effort and guided his side around the field with his running and kicking game.
The first try of the second half came off his boot, with Ligi Sao the beneficiary on that occasion.
Lino has spent five seasons behind the likes of Jeff Robson, Chad Townsend and Kieran Foran – managing just nine NRL appearances in that time.
However his Intrust Super Premiership form last season and coach Stephen Kearney’s willingness to name him captain in the team’s first hit out of the season is an indication Lino is heading in the right direction.
“It was an honor to lead the boys out, we were a bit messy in patches there but happy to get the result in front of the local fans”, Lino said of his side’s scratchy first win of 2018.
His coach was “more or less happy” with the Warriors overall performance on Saturday, and particularly proud of his young half.
“I thought Mason warmed into things and really controlled the game at the end there when things got tight which was good,” Kearney said.
“He had to play the whole game after Ata [Hingano] went off with a head knock in the first half so yeah I thought it was a solid game from Mason.”
A former under 20 teammate of Lino’s was also quick to credit the half for the win.
In his first match for the Warriors’ first grade side, Peta Hiku said Lino made life for the outside men easy, but didn’t let his captain completely off the hook.
“He was awesome today; Mason; I would’ve liked to have seen him give us a bit more early ball in the first half like he was there in the second but no, he was good. I thought he really controlled the game well,” Hiku said.
Lino will likely get one more crack to prove his worth when the Warriors head to the Sunshine Coast next week to take on the Gold Coast Titans in a second trial match ahead of their round one showdown against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Perth.