Craig Fitzgibbon addresses Nicho Hynes fallout after Origin statement from Mitchell Moses

Hynes' replacement put on one of best displays for a Blues No.7 in years.

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon has challenged his star halfback Nicho Hynes to get over the disappointment of his State of Origin axing and concentrate on leading the Sharks towards the NRL finals. Hynes was axed by Blues coach Michael Maguire after the Origin opener in Sydney and replaced by Mitchell Moses for Game 2, with the Eels playmaker putting in a man of the match performance in the 38-18 thrashing of the Maroons that sets up a series decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 17.

Moses equalled Blues great and former coach Brad Fittler's all-time record of four try assists in one game for NSW and the No.7's kicking game was immense. Moses kicked for 431 metres to help the Blues dominate field position and his cross-field kick to set up Zac Lomax for one of his two tries in the record 34-0 first half mauling was sublime.

Pictured right is Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon, with Mitchell Moses in centre and Nicho Hynes on left.
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon hopes Mitchell Moses' State of Origin masterclass for NSW will help Nicho Hynes put all his focus onto Cronulla's NRL season. Pic: Getty

Hynes' kicking game in the opening match of the Origin series came under fire and he failed to get the Blues' attack clicking like Moses did in Game 2 - albeit with NSW playing with 12 men after Joseph Suaalii's eighth-minute send off. Moses' performance at the MCG on Wednesday night was praised across the league world, with Blues legend Andrew Johns describing it as the finest of his career. “This is the best game I’ve seen Mitchell Moses ever play,” Johns said on Channel Nine's coverage. "As a halfback, he does the thinking for everyone. He tells them where to run and what to do. He’s had a game.”


Moses is all but assured of keeping his spot for the Origin decider in three weeks, meaning Hynes will almost certainly have to wait another year to potentially get another crack. Sharks coach Fitzgibbon concedes that it would be disappointing for his star but said the performance from Moses in Game 2 and the sense that he was always Maguire's first choice, means Hynes can just focus on club footy, starting with Friday night's top-eight clash with the Bulldogs.

"He's got nothing to prove, not at all," the Sharks coach said about Hynes. "Mitchell Moses last night was fantastic and you'd probably assume prior to the first game, if Mitchell was fit, they probably would've went that way anyway. He proved that right last night. Nicho's got to get back to getting his Sharks hat on and going for that."

Hynes copped plenty of criticism after the Blues' Game 1 defeat, which seems a little unfair considering NSW played the majority of the match with one less player. And the Cronulla half was also at the centre of backlash around his defence and for missing a sideline kick in the round 15 defeat to the Dolphins that would have sent the game into golden point extra time.

Fitzgibbon admitted the miss would have been "tough" on Hynes but said it wasn't why his side lost the game. The Sharks had the bye after that loss to the Dolphins, meaning Friday night's match against a much improved Bulldogs side is another chance for Hynes to make amends. Not that his coach thinks the recent setbacks have been weighing on his No.7.

Seen here, Cronulla star Nicho Hynes playing against the Dolphins in round 15 of the NRL.
Nicho Hynes missed a game-deciding conversion attempt and had some questionable defensive moments as the Sharks lost to the Dolphins in round 15. Image: Channel 9/Getty

"I feel like you guys (the media) are really worried about whether he's worried about it," he said. "The 22 unanswered points in the first half (against the Dolphins) was the biggest issue, not the last goal kick that could have tied the game.

"As a goal-kicker, of course Nicho would pride himself on his kicking percentages. But as for an issue with him that you guys are constantly asking about, he's OK. He's walked in bubbly, he's doing OK and he wants to get back to playing good footy for the Sharks."

Braden Hamlin-Uele's bout of flu is the only thing standing between Cronulla and a fully fit top-30 roster, with second-rower Teig Wilton set to face the Bulldogs after returning from a shoulder complaint. The Sharks are one of only four sides who did not lose any players for Origin 2, meaning Fitzgibbon's side should be relatively fresh and ready to get back to winning ways, having lost three of their last four games after only losing once in their first 11.

"We missed the kick in all those games with multiple back-field errors, penalties, just the fundamentals of good, hard footy that we weren't doing earlier in the year," he said. "Painful lessons, of course, and momentum's hard to address at the moment. We didn't do a good job with that, either."

with AAP