Nicho Hynes could be the odd man out amid a tricky selection dilemma for Mal Meninga ahead of the Pacific Championship final on Saturday. The Kangaroos will battle New Zealand for the second week running after Meninga's men ran out 36-18 winners against the Kiwis last weekend.
Hynes made his debut for the Kangaroos in the win, playing 25 minutes off the bench in a utility role. With Meninga opting to rest front-line starting forwards Payne Haas and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, a spot opened up for Hynes in the 17.
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The Cronulla halfback was overlooked for the Kangaroos' opening match against Samoa, but showed his versatility and value against New Zealand. Hynes started in the middle as a roving utility, but moved into the halves when five-eighth Cameron Munster came off. There was also the possibility that Hynes could play fullback after James Tedesco suffered a slight knock.
According to Michael Ennis, Hynes did enough to show Meninga that he should retain his place for the final against the Kiwis on Saturday. “I think (Hynes) played himself into a side for next week,” Ennis said on Fox League.
“His versatility - his ability to go into the middle part of the field and play as that 13 and we saw Munster came off, Tedesco got a little knock and there was a possibility he’d go to fullback. He can play five-eighth, halfback, he’s trained at dummy half… there is no more versatile man in their squad than Nicho Hynes and in big games with HIAs, to have that versatility is a luxury."
Reuben Cotter might miss out for Kangaroos in final
According to Ennis, Reuben Cotter might be the man to miss out. “It’s clear Mal freshened up his two middle forwards, there’s no doubts that Tino and Payne will be back in the middle and have been two of the elite front-rowers in the competition this season," he added.
“I’ve been a huge supporter of (Cotter) publicly and Mal went with him on the bench against Samoa, (but) I feel like on the back of Nicho Hynes’ performance and the versatility he brings. Just due to the fact of minutes in the middle of the field and the influence of these two men in (Lindsay) Collins and (Patrick) Carrigan, they probably don’t need another middle forward. They are better off having that versatility that Hynes brings and therefore maybe Reuben Cotter misses out next week.”
With Haas and Fa’asuamaleaui rested, Jake Trbojevic and Tom Flegler were promoted to the starting side and Cotter started in the second row. Collins and Carrigan were fantastic off the bench, while Liam Martin also earned a rest after starting against Samoa.
Whether Cotter or Hynes misses out remains to be seen, but Cotter was man of the series in State of Origin this year - and Meninga has shown faith in players who have got the job done on the big stage in the past. Hynes missing out would be another brutal blow for the Sharks halfback, who was dumped by Brad Fittler during NSW's Origin series loss this year.
"It was an excellent performance and the things we wanted to get through we did," Meninga said of last weekend's win. "Our second half was amazing - our completion rate was great and we controlled field position and we've got some quality players in our footy team who can take advantage of that. Things are working well for us but we put the effort in."
And that is exactly how he should be used of the bench
— Phoenix Shark (@Nulla_boy) October 28, 2023
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