Nicho Hynes detail emerges as Michael Maguire addresses NSW State of Origin criticism

The NSW coach has scoffed at the doubts around his superstar No.7.

Nicho Hynes has been given an emphatic vote of confidence by NSW coach Michael Maguire as doubts swirl around the Blues halfback before Wednesday night's State of Origin opener in Sydney. Hynes has been battling tightness in his right calf and comes into Game I with questions around his fitness, the mental scarring from his Origin axing in 2023 and suggestions the Maroons will target him in defence.

Hynes will be desperate to atone for a missed tackle that led to a Queensland try in Game I last year, after which he was axed by former NSW coach, Brad Fittler. The Sharks playmaker featured for just 12 minutes in the unfamiliar position of centre and was exposed by the craft of Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster, who set up the crucial try for the Maroons.

NSW coach Michael Maguire has full confidence in Nicho Hynes despite questions around the Blues No.7 before the State of Origin opener. Pic: Getty
NSW coach Michael Maguire has full confidence in Nicho Hynes despite questions around the Blues No.7 before the State of Origin opener. Pic: Getty

Speaking on NRL 360 on Monday night, Queensland great Gorden Tallis said Hynes should expect to be targeted again by the Maroons when he makes his return to the Origin arena. “The rumour last year was that defensively he (Hynes) doesn’t move laterally. There’s no doubt if Reece Walsh gets on him – you saw what Reece Walsh did to Penrith in the Grand Final – so there’s no doubt they’re (Queensland) going to run plays at him,” Tallis said on NRL 360 on Monday night.

“There’s no doubt they’re going to run traffic (at him)." Tallis was referencing Maroons fullback Walsh's display for the Broncos in the 2023 grand final where he terrorised Penrith's right edge defence - the same side Hynes will be defending on for the Blues in Game I.

There is a perception around Hynes that he could be a weak-link in defence for the Blues but it's an area of the 27-year-old's game that is vastly improved. And the numbers from this season in the NRL back up that notion. Hynes' 226 tackles this season are bettered by only Drew Hutchison as far as halves go. Despite his heavy workload, six other playmakers have still missed more tackles than Hynes' 25, including Maroons star Ben Hunt and Blues teammate, Jarome Luai.

Another concern around Hynes is how he will bounce back from the devastation of being dropped after Game I last year. The Cronulla star admitted it took quite some time for him to move on from the disappointment but Blues coach Maguire has complete confidence in his No.7 and says the events of last year are a thing of the past.

"That's history," Maguire said. "You're thrown into the deep end in a quick game, it's moving. If anything, it's a great experience for him. Everyone faces a little bit (of adversity) in their career and he's no different. He's prepared really well. And he knows his role coming into this game. So I don't look at (last year)."

Seen here, NSW State of Origin star Nicho Hynes.
Nicho Hynes was dropped from the NSW State of Origin side after a disappointing 12-minute cameo in his debut for the Blues in 2023. Pic: Getty

Hynes has been put under added pressure by the return of Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses, whose superb first game back in the NRL for 10 weeks saw fans calling for him to be parachuted into the Blues side. Then there is the troublesome calf that saw Hynes sit out the second half of his side's 42-0 flogging by Penrith - his last hit-out before going into Origin camp with the Blues.


The Sharks No.7 had an off night even before he came off the field for an HIA and never returned. But Maguire was quick to remind critics of Hynes - who currently sits second on the Dally M leaderboard - about his performances for the high-flying Sharks throughout the rest of the season.

"Don't worry about that one. Have you watched the previous 10 games he's played?" Maguire said. "You roll on, he's a human being... no doubt he was thinking about Origin (that night against Penrith). I've had many a player go through exactly what he went through in that last game. It's actually irrelevant."

with AAP