Final audition for Sharks Origin hopefuls

NRL Rd 4 -  Sharks v Raiders
Nicho Hynes is expected to be named halfback for the Blues as long as he gets through Saturday’s game against Penrith, with the Sharks star in no doubt despite dealing with a calf issue. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon is confident Nicho Hynes’ calf issue won’t be a problem for him in camp if he’s selected to play halfback for the Blues, with the star playmaker the raging favourite to wear the No.7 jersey for NSW after guiding his side to the top of the table.

Hynes will take on Jarome Luai on Saturday night, with the premiership winner in the mix to play five-eighth for the Blues when the team gets announced next Monday.

The former Dally M Medal winner has been in tremendous form this season and led his side to a terrific win over the Roosters at Magic Round after he was a late scratching the previous week in Melbourne due to a calf concern.

NRL Rd 11 -  Sharks v Roosters
Nicho Hynes had no issues with his calf in a star showing against the Roosters. Picture: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

“The actual calf injury has pulled up well, but it’s a managing process now,” Fitzgibbon said.

“It wasn’t a significant issue at the time, but it was enough to monitor his loads and make sure the most important time on his legs is the 80 minutes this weekend.

“He’s done some work to be prepared for this week, but not as much as he’d normally do. That’s a process over a couple of weeks to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“It’s just a process of overcoming the original injury, so you can’t go back to the same volume you were doing before the injury, so I imagine each week he’s going to get stronger.”

Hynes got a crack in Origin last year but was dropped after he came on late in game one and played out of position as the Maroons struck twice to snatch victory.

That rocked him at the time, but the halfback has responded maturely and is playing his most consistent footy, which has seen him bounce back from mistakes in games as he showed last week when he kicked a ball out on the full but then hit back with a 40/20 and a try assist.

Westpac NSW Blues Training
Hynes didn’t have the State of Origin debut fairytale that he would have dreamed about. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

“I thought at the back end of last year, he had for his standards a wobble throughout the middle of the year, but I thought the process started back then of him moving on and thinking what the team needs next,” his coach said.

“He touches the ball the most after Blayke Brailey at dummy-half, so the amount of kicking and passing they do, there are going to be some (errors). It’s about minimising the amount and getting over it.”

Hynes isn’t the only Sharks player in the mix for Origin selection, with Cameron McInnes, Jesse Ramien and Blayke Brailey also being spoken about.

NRL Rd 11 -  Sharks v Roosters
There are several Sharks players in the mix to be picked for the series opener. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

“We haven’t had many big game players over the past couple of years, so if players are stepping up to the possibility of playing in big game fixtures, I think that makes them better players,” a proud Fitzgibbon said.

“If they come back to your team, the team is stronger because you’ve got more players that have experienced the highest level.

“We’d love to see them rewarded with those jerseys, but we’ve got to acknowledge the selection process because they’re not over the line yet.”

Losing them would make the next few weeks tricky for the ladder leaders, but it could also be a blessing if they return with newfound confidence.

“I think that’s worth it,” Fitzgibbon said.

“You don’t want to disrupt your season, but it might not. It might actually be defining for the season.

“We’ve got a number of players knocking on the door at the moment and we’ve had a number of guys knocking on the door for the past couple of years, so it’s an opportunity for people to step in.”