‘Untouchable’: School smashings driving NSW dream

New South Wales State of Origin Media Opportunity
Jarome Luai and Nicho Hynes may not have any experience together in the NRL, but the NSW halves go way back to when they dominated for their state in touch footy. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

New halves partners Nicho Hynes and Jarome Luai didn’t get to train together on Wednesday morning as the Blues had their first proper session as a team in the Blue Mountains.

But combinations are nothing new for the duo who starred for NSW more than a decade ago as part of an “untouchable” team that beat Queensland.

While NRL combinations at rep level have been the trend in recent years, Hynes and Luai are hoping to replicate what they did back in their high school touch football days in a team stacked with kids who would go on to play in the top grade.

“Jarome and I have played touch footy for NSW back in the day when we were in high school so we’ve known each other for a long time,” Hynes said, with the Blues halfback not taking part in Wednesday’s session.

Nicho Hynes back in his touch footy days
Nicho Hynes was a terrific touch football player before he made it in the NRL. Picture: Peninsula Junior Touch Facebook

“I was 15 and he might have been 14. We actually beat Queensland in the grand final in that touch game so hopefully we can do the same thing.

“It’s good to rekindle that relationship because we haven’t combined on the field properly for a long time so I’m looking forward to that.

“I reckon we can keep building our relationship off the field and it’ll transition on the field. He’s a great person and he’s got plenty of energy. I feel like I’ve got a bit of energy as well so hopefully we can build on that.”

Jarome Luai back in his touch footy days
Jarome Luai was an outstanding touch footy player at high school. Picture: Penrith Touch Association Facebook

The pair have been tasked with ending Queensland’s two-year reign just days after Luai led Penrith to a thumping win over the Sharks who lost Hynes to a calf issue at half-time.

They haven’t had the chance to combine since with Luai predominantly playing outside of Nathan Cleary, but they’ll each have their specific roles as Hynes gets his first crack at halfback in a Blues jersey.

It might take a while for them to gel, but history says they can’t be stopped once it clicks.

“We represented NSW at all schools level in our touch days so we’ve had some connection in the past so it’s pretty cool to see where we are now on the biggest stage in our game,” Luai said.

“I’m pretty excited to rekindle what we had back then, but whatever happens, we’ll take it one day at a time.

“We were untouchable back in those days.

“We had a gun touch side with guys like Matt Dufty, Jackson Hastings and Bevan French. I was easily (the slowest in that team) but it’s pretty cool to reminisce on those days.”