Brad Fittler faces a huge decision on whether to pick in-form Sharks star Nicho Hynes in the halves over incumbent Jarome Luai and the call could also determine his own Origin future. Hynes has returned in 2023 in phenomenal form and the 26-year-old stole the show again as the Sharks defeated the Roosters 22-12 on the weekend.
The NRL playmaker's heroics came after he inked a contract extension last week that's reportedly worth around $7 million and will keep him at the Sharks until the end of 2029. Hynes is knocking on the door of Blues selection with many NRL experts calling for the Sharks player to be given a chance.
This would see him dethrone Panthers five-eighth Luai. The Penrith star has been in good form, but didn't stand out in the Blues' shock series lost last year to the Maroons.
While Luai hasn't done anything wrong, Hynes is banging down the door. And admitting he is keen for the 5/8 jersey in the Origin area, Hynes also said he 'hates' Queensland. This resonated with former Blues star Braith Anasta who said on Fox Sports' NRL 360 that he must be very close to selection.
"I love those comments. That a New South Welshman is actually coming out and declaring that he hates Queensland, he’s showing the passion,” Anasta said on the show. “He’s playing unbelievable footy, is he in the box seat to get that No. 6 jersey?”
While the debate heats up on whether Fittler should stick with the Penrith combination of Nathan Cleary and Luai, or go with the new pairing of Cleary and Hynes, veteran NRL reporter Phil Rothfield feels like Fittler is also under immense pressure. He claimed Fittler and selector Greg Alexander could be facing uncertainty if this series doesn't go their way.
“They should pick Hynes but Brandy and Freddy have made some mistakes in recent years and I’m sure they watched that (Sharks) second half the other day and look it had Origin written all over it,” Rothfield said.
“We haven’t had someone say publicly that they hate Queensland since Paul Gallen. The bottom line is you don’t pick Jarome Luai because we lost the series last year."
Fellow NRL reporter Brent Read agreed loyalty goes out the window when you haven't won the series. Queensland bounced back from a heavy Game II defeat last year to take the series against a shocked Blues side.
Fittler has lost two series as the Blues coach, but has a winning record of seven victories and five losses. Last year, Fittler's selection, alongside Greg Alexander, came under fire when winger Josh Addo-Carr was left out of the team.
Nicho Hynes banging on State of Origin door
Following his display against the Roosters, Sharks legend Michael Ennis described Hynes as "unbelievable" in the second half. Fellow commentator and league great Greg Alexander added: “Nicho was amazing in the second half and came up with the big play to break the game open.”
Hynes' display will no doubt see more calls grow for the versatile playmaker to be selected in NSW coach Brad Fittler's squad. Sharks coach Fitzgibbon is adamant his marquee star is ready to take the next step in his career. “He’s fearless,” the Cronulla coach said after the game.
“He works at it and he doesn’t die wondering. He gets out there and goes for it, goes for it and he doesn’t stop going for it. He could handle that (Origin). He’s ready for that. It’s not up to me to make the selections, but I’ll tell you what, he’d go down swinging.”
Hynes admits it's a dream of his to represent NSW in State of Origin but when asked about it after the Roosters game, said his immediate focus was on helping the Sharks climb the ladder. “It’s been a dream of mine forever,” Hynes said when asked about the possibility of playing Origin.
“I’ve been involved in the series for the last couple of years as 18th man, so I’d love to get just one jersey number smaller so I can run onto that Origin arena, which would be awesome. You can’t be up for selection if you’re not playing good football for the Sharks. All I’m worried about at the moment is winning games here. We’ve got another five weeks before another rest, and I think that’s when the Origin period is.
“My name can’t be in contention if I don’t play well for the Sharks, so all I’m worried about is rocking up every single day trying to get better and winning games here.”
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