Nicho Hynes display stuns NRL world in 'astonishing' return from injury

The Cronulla Sharks halfback put on an absolute clinic against the Dragons in his first game of 2023.

Nicho Hynes, pictured here on fire for the Sharks against the Dragons.
Nicho Hynes was on fire for the Sharks against the Dragons. Image: Getty/Fox Sports

Nicho Hynes has left NRL fans and commentators searching for the superlatives after an incredible return from injury for the Sharks against the Dragons on Sunday night. The Cronulla halfback missed the first three rounds of the 2023 season due to a calf complaint, but made up for lost time in a big way at Kogarah against a woeful Dragons outfit.

The reigning Dally M Medallist didn't miss a beat as he set up three tries and had a hand in two others as Cronulla ran out 40-8 winners. It marked the Sharks' biggest win over their arch-rivals in 16 years and piled more pressure on under-fire Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.

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Hynes' first impact came in the eighth minute when he delivered a superb cut-out ball for Ronaldo Mulitalo, who burst down field and kicked back inside for Will Kennedy to score. Hynes did allow Ben Hunt to skip outside him and missed a crucial tackle to allow the Dragons to score their first try.

But from then on it was only positives for Hynes, who set up one try when he produced a classy ball for Briton Nikora to stream through a hole, while another came when he provided a long pass for Katoa. His finest moment came when he and Nikora combined on the right edge for another line break, with Nikora bursting down field before Hynes gave a beautiful one-handed offload for Jesse Ramien to score.

"He got excited at times, it's hard to keep up with Nicho sometimes," coach Craig Fitzgibbon said. "I thought it was a strong performance, given lack of training time and lack of connection time with the guys.

"He seamlessly fit back in and gave a boost. But I have to say his teammates stepped up also and he was the beneficiary of a better team performance today."

Nicho Hynes, pictured here in action for the Sharks against the Dragons.
Nicho Hynes in action for the Sharks against the Dragons. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

NRL world in awe of stunning Nicho Hynes display

Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss called Hynes' display an “astonishing return”, while Michael Ennis labelled it a “five-star” performance. Ennis said Hynes was itching to help out his team after missing the first three matches - two losses and a win.

“He was genuinely hurting,” Ennis said about a conversation he had with Hynes before the game. “He cares so much about his team and his teammates. He’s had a blinder.”

Fellow commentator Corey Parker said: “He doesn’t wait and lay lines and fall into default systems if there’s an opportunity. He just takes what he sees. Just his ability to put people into space and make them better players.”

Altogether, Hynes ran for 123 metres, had four tackle breaks, five line break assists, four offloads and three try assists to put his name firmly in the frame to partner Nathan Cleary in the halves for NSW in State of Origin this year. Jarome Luai has been the NSW five eighth for the last few seasons, but Hynes will surely come into Brad Fittler's calculations given his imperious form over the last 12 months.

The loss for the Dragons sends them to 1-2 on the season and 14th on the ladder. It also heaps more pressure on Griffin, with the chances of him being re-signed as coach beyond 2023 looking increasingly unlikely.

"It's very disappointing. It's not going to go away now," Hunt said of the speculation around Griffin's future.

"We have to play some good footy. That's all it comes down to. He's not the one out on the field. We're the ones missing tackles in the second half."

with AAP

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