Brad Fittler rips 'uneducated' NRL critics over infamous Nicho Hynes Blues Origin saga

Fittler says if he was still Blues coach he would name a utility on the bench.

Former Blues coach Brad Fittler says he has no regrets about giving Nicho Hynes such a short cameo in last year's State of Origin series, declaring his role was solely to fill in if a back was injured. Fittler was in charge of the Blues in last year's Origin defeat to Queensland and came under heavy fire for dropping Nicho Hynes after his short and sour Game I appearance.

In what was his State of Origin debut, Hynes was selected by Fittler as a utility off the bench. The Sharks star was left to warm the bench until late in the second half when he replaced Tom Trbojevic after the centre had to leave the field for a concussion test.

Brad Fittler says he doesn't regret giving Nicho Hynes such a short cameo in last year's State of Origin series. Image: Getty
Brad Fittler says he doesn't regret giving Nicho Hynes such a short cameo in last year's State of Origin series. Image: Getty

Hynes found himself in unfamiliar territory out in the centres and missed a crucial tackle on Cameron Munster which led to a game-defining Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow try in the 26-18 Game I defeat. He was consequently axed for game two and replaced by specialist hooker Damien Cook - who also filled in later in the series at centre when Trbojevic injured his pec in the opening minutes of the game. While Cook scored NSW's only try of the night in that 32-6 loss it showed the value of having a specialist outside back on the bench.

Ahead of this year's State of Origin series, new Blues coach Michael Maguire raised more than a few eyebrows when he opted to select four forwards on the bench. With no genuine utility option to turn to if a back is forced off the field in Game I this year, players such as Angus Crichton or Hudson Young would likely be made to shift into an outside back role in the event of injury.

Despite not selecting a genuine backline option after axing Hynes last series, Fittler says if he was in charge in 2024 he would undoubtedly have selected a back for Game I but understands the dilemma. "We put Cooky there and I got heaps of criticism for that, but he scored a try, he actually did a really good job," Fittler said on Wide World of Sports' Freddy and the Eighth.

"It's all hindsight... at the end of the day you put an outside back on (the bench) and no one gets injured and you're left with (an unused player)."


After being asked about the little game time he gave to Hynes last year in Game I and his subsequent dropping, Fittler said he was selected with the sole reason of coming on if an outside back had to leave the field. "That was uneducated people, whoever was saying that (that Hynes should have played more)," Fittler said. "That was his whole role, to come on and fill those positions."

The former Blues coach also bristled at the suggestion that Hynes was to blame for the costly Game I defeat. "He (Hynes) was actually beaten by Cam Munster, who actually beat Nathan Cleary before and then three other players, went around and passed it to (Tabuai-Fidow) who is the quickest bloke in the comp," Fittler said. "We were just outplayed, simple as that."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Nicho Hynes warms up during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin squad training session at Coogee Oval on May 31, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Nicho Hynes is set to start at halfback for the Blues in Game I.

The likes of Queensland legend Paul Vautin have criticised Billy Slater's decision to select Selwyn Cobbo on the bench, stating the Maroons are a 'forward short' for Game I. But Slater believes having an outside back on the bench is essential in the modern game with the increasing prevalence of injuries, in particular head knocks.

“Four of our last six games we have had to replace an outside back, so that’s the first reason,” Slater said on NRL 360. “The second reason is that Selwyn Cobbo is a wonderful player, we’ve seen him play in multiple positions. Wing, centre and fullback for the Broncos. He’s just one of those players that you want out on the field.

"We will build a bit of a plan for how to inject him into the game if he’s not needed in the outside backs. Queensland’s been accustomed to doing that over the years. We will work out what’s best for the team and Selwyn.”