NSW has been hit with a huge blow as Nathan Cleary is set to miss up to six weeks after his left hamstring tear, causing him to sit out game two in Brisbane and leaving his chances of playing in Sydney’s series-closer on July 12 uncertain. Brad Fittler is now in a difficult position of choosing Cleary’s replacement for the must-win trip to Lang Park. However, NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai believes that Cronulla playmaker Nicho Hynes is the perfect candidate to fill Cleary’s void.
Luai has endorsed Hynes as a capable player who is ready for the challenge of State of Origin. Hynes won last year’s Dally M Medal and made his debut as bench utility in Adelaide last week. He has been in camp for the last two State of Origin series and has trained at the number seven and six positions. Luai is confident that Hynes is capable of stepping up on the day and backing him to fill Cleary’s shoes.
Aside from Hynes, Fittler has a few other options for Cleary’s replacement. Fittler could consider bringing Parramatta’s Mitchell Moses or Brisbane’s Adam Reynolds into the fold. Reynolds, in particular, has not played an Origin since 2016, but his return could lead to him rekindling the partnership he once had with Cody Walker at the Rabbitohs.
Fittler has previously relied on the Cleary-Luai combination over the past two series, and Luai believes he has done enough to retain his spot even without Cleary. He is confident in himself and is ready if Fittler calls upon him again.
Before the NSW coach names his squad next Monday, he will be monitoring the injury front. South Sydney‘s Cameron Murray‘s groin issue has been cleared, and he will be monitored by the Rabbitohs. NSW has never saved a series in Brisbane, and they are moving forward without Cleary’s precise kicking game. However, with Luai’s endorsement of Hynes, NSW may have a solid chance of winning game two.