Cronulla Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon has spoken out about the growth and resilience of star halfback Nicho Hynes following his exclusion from the State of Origin team. Hynes, who was initially selected as the Blues’ backup halves option for Game I, was unexpectedly dropped from the squad after Brad Fittler opted for Parramatta’s Mitch Moses instead. The speculation surrounding Hynes’ Blues selection seemed to affect his performance in round 15 against Melbourne, but he showed improvement in the following game against Canterbury. Fitzgibbon acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and praised Hynes for how he has handled the adversity.
“It’s obviously brutal… State of Origin is brutal, right?” Fitzgibbon commented on the tough selection process. He emphasised the immense pressure faced by Blues players and acknowledged the challenges that come with it. Despite the hardship, Fitzgibbon believes that such experiences can shape players for the better and acknowledged Hynes’ growth from the experience.
The Cronulla coach revealed that the recent bye week had come at an opportune time for both the club and Hynes individually. Fitzgibbon noted a change in Hynes’ demeanor and stated that he had returned to training with a renewed sense of purpose. “He walked back in ready to go and he loves the challenge,” Fitzgibbon said. He also assured that Hynes was in good physical and mental health and fully prepared for the upcoming matches.
Fitzgibbon emphasised that Hynes’ performance should not solely be attributed to his individual efforts. The coach stressed the importance of a collective team effort in order for Hynes to excel. However, Fitzgibbon expressed his belief in Hynes’ potential, stating that the halfback is more than capable of representing New South Wales. He cited Hynes’ consistent performance over a long period of time as evidence of his capabilities.
With their third and final bye last weekend, Cronulla has jumped into the top four and has its sights set on another top-two finish. The team will be facing favorable opponents such as the St George Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers, and Manly in the coming month. Despite the seemingly advantageous schedule, Fitzgibbon warned his team against underestimating the Dragons, especially after their recent period of instability caused by Ben Hunt‘s desire to leave the club. The coach stressed the need for his side to be prepared for the Dragons‘ best performance.
Fitzgibbon also revealed that impact forward Toby Rudolf, who has been sidelined since round five due to a foot injury, is unlikely to make an immediate return. The coach hinted that Rudolf will likely gain some match fitness in the NSW Cup before rejoining the first-grade squad.