Tino time: Storm to unleash teenage sensation on NRL
RUGBY LEAGUE: Teenage giant Tino Fa'Asuamaleaui will be unleashed for the Melbourne Storm on Thursday night, making his long-awaited NRL debut.
Coach Craig Bellamy has named the 19-year-old in his squad ahead of Round 16's clash with St George Illawarra Dragons.
Fa'Asuamaleaui, the son of Gympie legend Fereti, has regularly notched up 200-plus metres for the Sunshine Coast Falcons this season.
Falcons coach Eric Smith believes the naturally-blessed athlete is well-equipped to fire at any level.
"He's been exceptional for us in his past two games, and Storm actually rested him last week for this clash,” Smith said.
"He was playing 80 minutes for us, and been consistently running over 200m. He's bided his time really well.
"For someone so young, he is so big and strong, and I don't think he is finished growing.
"I think he will play middle, probably off the bench.”
Fa'Asuamaleaui is the latest Falcon to graduate to the NRL, following Ryan Papenhuyzen, Harry Grant, Justin Olam and Tui Kamikamica in recent years.
He is the latest Coast junior after Corey Horsburgh and Reed Mahoney.
Storm will be without Christian Welch and Felise Kaufusi who are in Queensland Origin camp, and Dale Finucane for NSW.
"A lot of people say Origin disrupts the NRL season, but one good thing out of it is that blokes like Tino debut,” Smith said.
"It's a great chance for him to see how he stacks up and show them how he handles it.
"It's a great reminder of how important the pathway to the top is.
"I think he'll go well. For Tino the debut was only a matter of time.”