Ata Hingano wants World Cup call-up with Tonga via York City Knights displays

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York City Knights half-back Ata Hingano made his debut for James Ford’s side against Dewsbury Rams on Sunday. Picture: Craig Hawkhead
York City Knights half-back Ata Hingano made his debut for James Ford’s side against Dewsbury Rams on Sunday. Picture: Craig Hawkhead

ATA HINGANO is eager to earn a spot in the Tonga squad for this autumn’s World Cup by delivering some strong performances for York City Knights.

Hingano made a dream debut for York in Sunday’s 22-10 win at Dewsbury Rams, coming off the bench to score and assist a try while also seeing two more four-point efforts, one he appeared to have ground himself and another he looked to have set up, harshly ruled out.

The half-back, who is on loan from Betfred Championship leaders Leigh Centurions, has eight Tonga caps to his name, but has not played for his nation since 2018, missing out on the last three Test matches.

He hopes that continuing his strong start to life with the Knights will boost his cause before the sport’s showpiece international event, which begins in October.

“My personal goal is just to play regular, consistent footy,” said Hingano, “I want to get my game time up.

“The main objective is the World Cup at the end of the year and, if I’m doing well here, then I’ll be selected for that.

“It just comes back to playing consistent footy for this club.”

Tonga narrowly missed out on a 2017 World Cup final spot to England, losing 20-18.

Since then, wins over reigning world champions Australia and Great Britain have been recorded, changing the reputation of Tonga, who failed to get out of the group stage of any World Cup from five previous attempts.

The Auckland-born Hingano is of Tongan descent and said of representing his heritage nation: “It means a lot. If you look at the image of it and what we’ve created now, a lot of other youth (players) are coming up and are carving the next generation.

“With the boys that have come in from the NRL, there’s a lot more (big) names and I think that the main thing we wanted to get across was that, although it’s not a big nation, it’s about something you represent beyond that.”

On Hingano’s York bow at the Tetley’s Stadium, the 25-year-old replaced Liam Harris and featured alongside Brendan O’Hagan in the halves.

The move by head coach James Ford reunited the pair, who previously played together in Australia.

“We are on the same wavelength,” said Hingano, who has signed a three-year deal with the Knights, beginning from 2023.

“Brendan and me have got chemistry from when we were playing together at Canberra (Raiders) a couple of years back.

“A couple of years down the road, we’re still linking up, so it’s all working well.”

Should the Hingano-O’Hagan combination start against Bradford Bulls at the LNER Community Stadium on Monday night (7.45pm), it would do so having been pushed harsh by fellow quality halves Harris and Jamie Ellis.

“We’ve got a really good team,” added the ex-New Zealand Warriors and Salford Red Devils man. “The first time that I came in, we played Fev (Featherstone Rovers) and from that game (a 30-22 away defeat), I saw a lot of potential in this group that we have.

“It looks like a team that can go a long way.”