Halfback Mason Lino has been called up to make his NRL debut in the Vodafone Warriors’ 24th-round encounter with North Queensland at Mount Smart Stadium tomorrow (7.30pm kick-off; match day theme: Members’ Appreciation Day; game day sponsor: Woodstock).
The 21-year-old Marist junior will become Vodafone Warrior No 202 as a late replacement for standoff Chad Townsend, who has been unwell all week and was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night.
“Chad hasn’t trained all week and he’s still not right so we made the call to bring in Mason,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden.
“He has been doing a terrific job for (coach) Stacey Jones in our New South Wales Cup side and deserves this.
“It’s a massive moment and opportunity for him. We had his mum and dad in this morning to present his first jersey to him and tomorrow he has the chance to make his debut in front of them as well as the rest of his family and friends plus our members and fans.
“We’re all excited for him in what will be our last home game of the season.”
Lino was co-captain when the Vodafone Junior Warriors won the NYC premiership last year. He finished his time in the competition with a record 503 points from 62 appearances (only Ben Henry with 64 and John Palavi with 63 have played more NYC games for the club).
The Avondale College old boy was set to take up a contract with AS Carcassonne in France last year but ultimately needed shoulder surgery instead and was given an opportunity to remain with the Vodafone Warriors.
After a long recovery, he made his first NSW Cup appearance of the year against Manly in May. He had his 12th outing of the campaign in Saturday’s 20-16 win against Wests Tigers, scoring a try and kicking four goals from four attempts – and being named man of the match – to take his tally for the season to 90 points.
Lino is the fifth member of last year’s NYC premiership-winning side to appear for the club’s NRL side this year. He’ll team up in the halves with fellow Marist club-mate Tuimoala Lolohea (they were paired in last year’s NYC grand final win) while the other 2014 NYC graduates have been Solomone Kata, Sam Lisone and Ken Maumalo.