Media outlets on both sides of the Tasman are reporting young Warriors half Ata Hingano has been granted a release from his contract and will join Canberra.
Seven newshound Josh Massoud took to Twitter to reveal the 20-year-old is set to ink a two-year deal with the Raiders, while Newshub said Warriors CEO Cameron George confirmed Hingano’s exit at the club’s season launch on Tuesday night.
Hingano showed immediate promise as a teenager in two late-season NRL appearances in 2016, but his future has been a constant source of speculation as the Warriors signed Kieran Foran for 2017 and locked in Blake Green for three seasons at the end of last year.
The elusive playmaker made 13 first-grade appearances last season – including seven starts as Foran and Shaun Johnson battled injuries – but it wasn’t enough to convince the Warriors’ brass he was ready to become Johnson’s fulltime halves partner.
A starring role at halfback in Mate Ma’a Tonga’s memorable charge to the World Cup semi-finals – ironically opposing Johnson in the island nation’s historic upset of New Zealand – only served to ramp up interest from rival NRL clubs.
The move is understandable for both parties, but Hingano’s departure would be a blow to the Warriors’ depth. Lower-grade stalwart Mason Lino, who has played nine NRL games, is the only other recognised half at the club, although 18-year-old Chanel Harris-Tavita featured in the Warriors’ trial win over Melbourne and is a highly-rated prospect.
Big-name recruits Peta Hiku and Tohu Harris have also played five-eighth for the Kiwis at Test level.
Meanwhile, Hingano’s impending arrival creates an intriguing narrative at Canberra.
He shapes as a possible bench utility with the Raiders set to be missing linchpin hooker Josh Hodgson for most of 2018, but the livewire’s presence will intensify pressure on misfiring halves duo Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer.