Cooper Cronk's huge Blues Origin gamble amid sad Nicho Hynes reality

The Maroons great has weighed-in on the Blues' drama in the halfback position.

Nicho Hynes during a game and Cooper Cronk speaking.
Maroons great Cooper Cronk (pictured right) has claimed he would start Adam Reynolds in the No.7 position after Nathan Cleary's injury, which leaves Nicho Hynes (pictured left) on the bench or out of the team. (images: Getty Images/Fox Sports)

Maroons legend Cooper Cronk has suggested the Blues should run with Adam Reynolds at halfback for the must-win State of Origin clash at Suncorp instead of Dally M winner Nicho Hynes. Nathan Cleary's injury on the weekend for the Panthers has all but ruled him out for the remainder of the Origin series.

This leaves coach Brad Fittler a huge decision on who to bring in and command the side around the field for the clash at Suncorp in a game the Blues must win to keep the series alive. A loss could end Fittler's reign as Blues coach, which makes his decision even bigger.

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And while many have called for Sharks Dally M winner Hynes to slot straight in as halfback, calls have emerged for in-form Broncos ace Reynolds to take the position. Reynolds has played Origin before and the former Rabbitohs premiership winner's familiarity of playing up at Suncorp would be a bonus.

The halfback's inclusion would also allow a combination with in-form five-eighth Cody Walker if Fittler was to make a halves reshuffle. And Maroons great Cronk has hinted that Fittler should take Reynolds as the starting halfback because he knows how to deal with the frenetic atmosphere in enemy territory.

“Before you even think about football, you’ve got to think who can handle the situation. I think temperament becomes a big player here, game two, Suncorp Stadium, a must win to keep the series alive. That’s not just going up there and playing football, that’s can you handle this moment," he said on NRL 360.

“I think the two best at that are Nicho Hynes and Adam Reynolds - their temperament, their ability not to get rattled by anything. Nicho has got the stoic nature in the way that he plays and then you’ve got Reynolds who has basically been dominating Suncorp Stadium for the last 18 months with the Brisbane Broncos, his kicking game is elite and it’s almost the most important thing in going up to Suncorp for a big game.

“If I had to choose, I think I’m keeping Nicho on the bench and starting Reynolds and I’m bringing Nicho onto the field early in the first half. If you need structure, Reynolds keeps going, if you need some vibrant play to score points then Nicho comes in.”

Fittler's rotation of Hynes caused controversy last Wednesday when he didn't get on the field till around 10 minutes left in the game and out of position at centre. This prompted many calls for Hynes to either start or for a new utility player to come into the squad.

Matty Johns addressed issue and claimed the reality for Hynes is if he doesn't start in Game II with Cleary out, the chances of him getting a starting role down the line diminishes.

Blues coach Brad Fittler watching on.
Blues coach Brad Fittler (pictured) is facing a must-win game in State of Origin. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“As far as the No. 7 is concerned, Nicho Hynes deserves his chance. It doesn’t mean you pick him but he deserves his chance,” Johns said NRL 360. He’s been in that system for a while, they’ve had him earmarked for a long time. If he doesn’t get picked now, he’s going to get picked (ever). I think they should go with Nicho and I want Cody walker at No. 6.

“I want Nicho on the right, he’s right-side specialist and Cody is the best left side player in the comp and I’d have Cook at No. 14." Maroons legend Gorden Tallis agreed with Cronk and said Reynolds was the similar player to Cleary and it would allow Walker to come in at No.6. This means Jarome Laui would be dropped.

Nathan Cleary injury rocks the Blues

Fittler will now have a big decision on who will replace Cleary for Game II after the Penrith halfback suffered a hamstring tear on the weekend. Cleary limped out of the game against the Dragons and on Monday, it was confirmed he would miss around six weeks with the hamstring injury.

Hynes could slot straight into No.7 to replace Cleary, but this then opens up the debate who will partner him in the halves. Incumbent Jarome Luai plays with Cleary at club level, but now loses the Panthers' partnership.

Adam Reynolds holding the ball.
Adam Reynolds (pictured) is being tipped for a potential return in the State of Origin arena. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Cody Walker is the form attacking five-eighth in the NRL and could come in to partner Hynes. This could see a combination with Latrell Mitchell, who is set to return, and Damien Cook if he is brought into No.9 or used off the bench.

The other name being tossed around is Adam Reynolds. The former Rabbitohs halfback has helped lead the Broncos in 2023 and would not be over-awed playing at Suncorp. His partnership with Walker and Mitchell could also be seen as valuable with Fittler known for favouring combinations.

While Mitchell is expected to be fit, the Rabbitohs fullback is still waiting to see if he will be ready to play this weekend's clash.

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