The omission of Nicho Hynes from the NSW Blues squad for State of Origin game three has sparked controversy and criticism, with coach Brad Fittler defending his decision. Despite being the reigning Dally M player of the year and playing a pivotal role in Cronulla’s success this season, Hynes was overlooked for the finale in Sydney. Fittler did include Hynes in the Origin I squad, but he only played 12 minutes off the bench in an unfamiliar position at centre. However, he was dropped for game II and ultimately not selected for game III, with Cody Walker chosen instead.
Fittler addressed the criticism of Hynes, suggesting that his form and high profile had made him an easy target for fans and media. On Nine’s 100% Footy, Fittler said, “‘Because Nicho’s doing such a great job on and off the field at the moment, it seems like a real easy target for a lot of media people to come into scrutiny and want to put pressure on that selection. It feels like they want to drive a wedge between Nicho and myself.'”
Hynes himself expressed his disappointment but remained focused on his club responsibilities. He said, “‘I’d honestly love to wear number six or seven in the Origin series and show what I can really do in the Origin arena. But my main focus is putting this team [the Sharks] into a position to try and win a competition and try being in the top four by the end of this regular season.'”
Fittler clarified that he had spoken to Hynes about the situation and explained that Walker was a better fit for the must-win game III. He said, “‘Nicho and myself are totally understanding of the situation at the moment, I respect what he’s doing for the Sharks and he’s doing an incredible job, so if he keeps going he’s going to force his way into the team somewhere.’ The situation with Nicho at the moment is he’s playing halfback for the Sharks and he pretty much predominantly plays on the right-hand side. So Mitchell Moses is the halfback and plays on the right-hand side and you’ve got someone like Cody Walker who is a five-eighth and plays on the other side, so it’s a much better fit.'”
Fittler also revealed that Walker came close to replacing Penrith’s Jarome Luai for Origin I and II before ultimately getting the call-up for the final game at Accor Stadium. He said, “‘Jarome’s been a big part of our team the last couple of years. From the start of the series I was tossing up between Jarome and Cody. Cody is just in career-best form at the moment and he had a quad injury going into the second Origin. But I just think it’s Cody Walker‘s time. It’s on his home ground in front of 70 or 80,000 people, and like I said, I picked a team to win.'”