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Mal Meninga move adds to Brad Fittler furore amid dramas around Nicho Hynes

The Sharks halfback has prompted a big decision for Mal Meninga.

Nicho Hynes looks on and Mal Meninga smiles.
Mal Meninga (pictured right) has appeared to get the best out of Nicho Hynes (pictured left) from the bench in his Kangaroos debut. (Getty Images)

Nicho Hynes stood out as a utility for the Kangaroos on the weekend in Australia's win over New Zealand and his performance has silenced his critics after his brutal axing at the hands of Brad Fittler. Ahead of his debut for Australia, Hynes was full of praise for his time in the Kangaroos camp under coach Mal Meninga.

The Sharks halfback claimed he has more direction under Meninga, compared to his time under Fittler for the Blues. "I have a much clearer idea of what my role is this time around," Hynes said ahead of his debut. "That's with all due respect to the NSW camp. I will come in well-equipped to playing this role.

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"Mal's been in this position before with similar players like Michael Morgan, (Cooper) Cronk, 'Chez' (Daly Cherry-Evans) did it too off the bench. We have a plan, we've trained it already and now it's a case of going out and nailing it."

The 2022 Dally M winner made his Blues debut this year under coach Fittler in Game I of Origin, but was only used in the final few minutes off the bench in a brutal cameo. The Blues lost the game and Hynes was then dropped altogether, despite Nathan Cleary's injury at halfback.

Hynes' form suffered for a month after his axing and he admitted Fittler's decision impacted his momentum. Fittler has stepped down as Blues coach since the series loss to the Maroons. However, a few months on and Hynes stood out when coming on for the Kangaroos adding two line break assists and adding a try assist during his time on the field in the 36-18 win.

Nicho Hynes passes the ball.
Nicho Hynes (pictured) could have played his way into the Kangaroos team next week. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images) (Daniel Pockett via Getty Images)

His performance caught the eye of Michael Ennis who questioned whether Hynes should retain his utility role on the bench over Reuben Cotter. “I think (Hynes) played himself into a side for next week,” Ennis said on Fox League.

“His versatility - his ability to go into the middle part of the field and play as that 13 and we saw Munster came off, Tedesco got a little knock and there was a possibility he’d go to fullback. He can play five-eighth, halfback, he’s trained at dummy half… there is no more versatile man in their squad than Nicho Hynes and in big games with HIAs, to have that versatility is a luxury."

And fans pointed out that Meninga has brought out the best of Hynes having used him off the bench superbly.

Reuben Cotter and Nicho Hynes battle it out

If Hynes was to retain his position on the bench for the Pacific Championship final, Ennis believes Cotter would have to make way. “It’s clear Mal freshened up his two middle forwards, there’s no doubts that Tino and Payne will be back in the middle and have been two of the elite front-rowers in the competition this season," he added.

“I’ve been a huge supporter of (Cotter) publicly and Mal went with him on the bench against Samoa, (but) I feel like on the back of Nicho Hynes’ performance and the versatility he brings. Just due to the fact of minutes in the middle of the field and the influence of these two men in (Lindsay) Collins and (Patrick) Carrigan, they probably don’t need another middle forward. They are better off having that versatility that Hynes brings and therefore maybe Reuben Cotter misses out next week.”

While Meninga will have plenty to think about, he was pleased with the performance on Saturday night. "It was an excellent performance and the things we wanted to get through we did," Meninga said of last weekend's win.

"Our second half was amazing - our completion rate was great and we controlled field position and we've got some quality players in our footy team who can take advantage of that. Things are working well for us but we put the effort in."

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