Matty Johns has declared Brad Fittler should stick strong with Jarome Luai in the halves for State of Origin, despite the incredible form of Nicho Hynes. Cronulla halfback Hynes won the Dally M medal in 2022 after an incredible season in which he led the Sharks to the semi-finals.
After missing the first three rounds with a calf injury, Hynes got straight back to his incredible form with two outstanding performances against the Dragons and Warriors. The 26-year-old's form has sparked calls for Fittler to pick him at five-eighth in the upcoming State of Origin series in what would be a dynamic halves combination with Nathan Cleary.
'UNDERDONE': Tom Trbojevic concerns as Latrell Mitchell shines
But according to Johns, Luai's club combination with Cleary and lock-forward Isaah Yeo should see him retain the No.6 jumper. The Newcastle Knights great says he believes Luai should stay at five-eighth and Hynes on the bench, despite the Blues' series loss in 2022.
“If I was to pick the side this morning, I would pick Nicho at 14 and I would leave Luai at six," Johns said on SEN radio. "The combination he has with not just Cleary but Isaiah Yeo, that three combination that sits right in the middle of the field is just such an advantage for NSW.
“Successful Origin sides, there has been an important combination that sits right at the front of the side. At one point you had Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley and Bradley Clyde.
“At other points, you’ve had Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus and Ben Kennedy there. Combinations are very important to a representative side and that Penrith one is a beauty in the middle of the field for NSW.”
Matty Johns would pick Tom Trbojevic on the wing
Johns, who played four State of Origin games for NSW, also weighed in on the Blues' potential backline in the wake of Josh Addo-Carr's ankle injury. The Bulldogs flyer seemed odds-on to make a return to the Origin arena this year after being overlooked in 2022, but will miss the next eight weeks and might not be ready for Game I.
The popular train of thought is that Fittler will pick Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell in the centres. But Johns said he would have Turbo on the wing.
“Some interesting ones around the outside backs, no Josh Add-Carr, so what do you do? For a lot of people this will start the (Joseph) Suaalii talk again,” Johns said.
“But this is what I would do at the back, my two wingers, let’s say for instance Tom Trbojevic is fit and ready to go, I’d go (Brian) To’o and Tom Trbojevic. I’d have Trbojevic on the wing, in my opinion, wingers these days have more involvement, are all almost more blue ribbon than a centre, a centre is a real grafter.
“I’d have Tom for his kick reception, it’s much easier saying to a winger, ‘Hey listen, Tommy, go roam the field and do what you want’, easier for a winger to do that than a centre. My back three would be (James) Tedesco at fullback, Tom Trbojevic, To’o - that’s a lot of yardage and punch.
“Latrell (Mitchell) goes without speaking - he’s one centre. The other centre, well take your pick, is it (Jack) Wighton, (Stephen) Crichton and (Matt) Burton, we’ve got a lot of depth in the outside backs.”
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