Hynes states claim for Origin with perfect performance as blood-thirsty Sharks devour ’embarrassed’ Raiders


Nicho Hynes has not quite made an undeniable case to be Nathan Cleary’s halves partner for NSW but he should be the first five-eighth option that Blues selectors discuss when it comes time to pick their Origin team. 

Hynes was at his brilliant best at GIO Stadium on Sunday to spearhead the Sharks to an ominous 40-0 flogging of the Raiders in what was a mismatch from the get-go.

He was playing chess while his inexperienced opponents were playing chequers in the game within the game of directing the teams exactly where they needed to be on the field. 

If it was in the era of the old Rugby League Week player ratings, he would have snared a rare 10 out of 10 with his only blemish failing to find touch with a penalty kick when the result was well beyond doubt.

Penrith, Melbourne and Brisbane each have a more potent roster but first-placed Cronulla are the form team of the competition for the way they have put together their 6-1 start to the year. 

The Sharks have been slick in attack, scoring at least 34 in their past four outings, to lead the league at more than 28 points per game and also possess the stingiest defence in the NRL at a fraction over 14.

Hynes’ six appeal growing stronger

Hynes has represented NSW just once when he was thrown on as a late substitute out of position in the centres in game one last year and became the scapegoat for the eight-point loss after missing a tackle on Cameron Munster in the lead-up to Queensland’s go-ahead try. 

With incumbent five-eighth Cody Walker out of form at the struggling Rabbitohs, the race for the No.6 jersey appears to be between Cleary’s club comrade Jarome Luai, Hynes and Canterbury’s Matt Burton. 

Incoming coach Michael Maguire has kept his cards very close to his chest, basically stating that all options are on the selection table leading into the June 5 series opener at Accor Stadium. 

Nicho Hynes. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Hynes has played just two of his 90 NRL appearances at five-eighth, filling in when Munster was injured at the Storm in 2021, but was renowned for his versatility during the early stages of his career in particular before he joined Cronulla and became a Dally M Medal winner. 

Cleary will clearly be the Blues’ first-choice playmaker when it comes to directing traffic and putting in attacking kicks so what they need is someone who can take the load off his shoulders so the Maroons can’t aim all their henchmen in his direction whenever he’s in possession of the Steeden.

And while Hynes clearly fills a similar role at club level, he would have no trouble taking a back seat to Cleary in attack, holding his own in defence and also being a line-breaking option two or three passes off the ruck. 


The Sharks burst right through the Raiders’ defence for their second.

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Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon said Hynes has “a nice balance to his game at the moment”.

“We all know he can make really nice plays, he’s got skill and talent but his defence, more importantly, it’s as good as I’ve seen him defend. He wouldn’t be out of place (in Origin).”

Sharks bare their teeth in Canberra

The Raiders repelled Cronulla for the first 13 minutes but their defensive line was broken when a Tom Hazelton offload led to Cameron McInnes diving over under the posts and copping a gash to his forehead which will probably signal the end to any hopes of a modelling career in his post-playing days. 

Hazelton made it 12-0 midway through the first half when he powered through an uncharacteristically poor Joseph Tapine tackle close to the line. 

Canberra hooker Danny Levi was hooked by Ricky Stuart after he spilled the pill with the line wide open after a Xavier Savage break down the left sideline.

He was looking for somewhere to hide following the embarrassing blunder and Stuart showed him a suitable spot on the bench after the Sharks marched downfield on the next set for Hynes to set up a Sione Katoa try for a 12-point turnaround. 

The Sharks capatalise on a big error from the Raiders! ????

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The second half was only six minutes old when Hynes mesmerised the defence on Canberra’s left edge to find Briton Nikora steaming through to the try line for a 24-0 buffer.

Hynes peeled off a 40-20 kick and then continued toying with the defence with ball in hand, this time dummying his way over as the Raiders made the mistake of focusing on his support players. 

Katoa crossed to make it 34-0 soon after the hour mark on the back of a Hynes long-range intercept and the halfback provided the last pass for Jesse Ramien to complete the carnage.

“I thought we controlled the game really well,” Fitzgibbon said.

Cronulla went into this game following the immediate retirement of co-captain Dale Finucane and five-eighth Braydon Trindall being stood down for drink-driving offences but that double blow barely caused a ripple for Fitzgibbon’s line-up.

Rookie five-eighth Daniel Atkinson complemented Hynes well in the halves while the pack outplayed, outmuscled and out-hustled their Canberra counterparts.

Green Machine missing crucial cogs

Canberra’s encouraging start to the season is starting to fade rapidly. 

“Too many missed tackles, there was a lot of poor football,” was coach Ricky Stuart’s summation after Sunday’s capitulation, which marked his 500th NRL match as a coach.

With two L-platers driving the Green Machine in Ethan Strange and Kaeo Weekes, the external expectations won’t be high although Stuart will be adamant his team still has what it takes to make the finals. 

They were not just without their chief playmaker Jamal Fogarty on Sunday but the added experience of Elliott Whitehead, Corey Horsburgh and Jordan Rapana on the injured list. 

Throw in Corey Harawira-Naera’s indefinite absence after his on-field seizure last year and the long-term shoulder injury recently suffered by Zac Hosking and the Raiders’ roster is seriously undermanned. 

The Sharks draw first blood courtesy of Cameron McInnes! ????

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Strange, Weekes and 18-year-old fullback Chevy Stewart are potential stars of the future but they are not yet ready to carry the hopes of a team missing so much experience.

“I’m not backtracking from the path we’ve taken with all those younger players,” Stuart added. “But I didn’t expect at this stage of the season having to play so many of them all together.

“When you’ve got so much experience sitting on the sidelines, it makes the job so much harder to play first grade for those younger players – they’re hurting and I’m hurting for them.

“I felt embarrassed for that performance but we will keep working hard.”

Canberra face a daunting trip to Brookvale next Friday on a five-day turnaround before their first bye in Round 10 which can’t come soon enough for a team that desperately needs their injured veterans back on deck.

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