Phil Gould calls for left-field NSW Blues halves pairing amid Nicho Hynes injury drama

The Bulldogs supremo wants to see Jarome Luai and Matt Burton paired together for State of Origin I.

Phil Gould believes Blues coach Michael Maguire should go away from the likes of Mitch Moses and Nicho Hynes for the State of Origin opener. With a hamstring injury ruling out Nathan Cleary for the series, the one seemingly locked in half for NSW is no longer available.

The likes of Moses, Hynes and Cody Walker have been thrown around as the most likely contenders for the two halves slots in Maguire's first Origin side. But Moses will likely only have one NRL hit out back from injury before Origin I, Hynes has a niggling calf injury and had a night to forget in his only Origin appearance and Walker's form at club level has been far from impressive, with his Rabbitohs rooted to the bottom of the ladder.

Pictured left Phil Gould and right Nicho Hynes
Phil Gould wants to see Jarome Luai and Matt Burton paired together for State of Origin I, with the injury cloud hanging over Nicho Hynes. Image: Getty

So the Blues' five-eighth and halfback spots are far from locked in and with the current landscape, Gould believes it is a perfect opportunity to go left field. Despite admitting Moses - who has been sidelined since round three with a foot injury - is likely to be named at halfback and Hynes at five-eighth, the Bulldogs supremo hopes instead Maguire will give Jarome Luai and Matt Burton another chance to impress at Origin level.

"I could endorse the selection of Luai at halfback and Burton at five-eighth," Gould said on Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles With Gus. "I know they would do a job, but there's two trains of thought there. They are totally different players to what Nicho Hynes and Mitchell Moses are. Personally, that's what I think they will do - but would it be my preference?

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Jarome Luai of the Panthers celebrates with Matt Burton of the Panthers after he scored a try during the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Phil Gould hopes Jarome Luai and Matt Burton will be given another chance to impress at Origin level.

"I've got a loyalty to Luai and Burton and if I was coaching, that's who I would go with. I wouldn't hesitate." The two Penrith products have featured for the Blues in the past.

Luai in particular has been a NSW regular over the past three series and helped lift the shield in 2021. But after poor showings in 2023, Luai was axed for Game III last year. Burton on the other hand has only played in the centres at Origin level but was a standout performer and has been in fine form for the Bulldogs this season.


Despite Gould hoping Maguire will go bold with his Origin selection and pick Luai and Burton, there's a growing belief Hynes and Moses are the two who will get the nod. Moses's delayed return from a foot injury means the No.7 may have just one game to convince Maguire he is the man to lead the Blues in the series opener in Sydney on June 5 but regardless is the frontrunner to get the nod.

Maguire will name his side the day after the Eels face Souths - at the conclusion of round 12 - and if both Moses and Hynes are fit and ready, Gould understands why Maguire would go with them. "My gut tells me if both those blokes are fit … I'd have no hesitation in picking him [Moses] for the game," Gould said.

"I'm loathe to say that because I hate picking my teams before the medical and I don't want to mock anyone. But all being well, I just get a feeling that this is what the new coach is looking for as a new look in the halves and they'll take them both."