Phil Gould calls out Nathan Cleary detail as Nicho Hynes faces the axe for State of Origin II

Hynes is facing the threat of being axed for Game II after the return of Mitch Moses.

Phil Gould has weighed in on the State of Origin debate around Nicho Hynes for Game II at the MCG after declaring NSW failed to get the best out of the Sharks halfback in the series opener. Hynes is under pressure to keep his spot for NSW heading into the must-win second game in Melbourne on June 26, following an underwhelming display for a 12-man Blues side in Sydney and the return of Parramatta No.7 Mitchell Moses from injury.

It's widely thought that Blues coach Michael Maguire would have picked Moses for Game I if he returned to the NRL sooner from the broken foot that ket him sidelined for 10 weeks. As it was, Hynes got the nod to play just the second game of his Origin career but was unable to get much clicking in attack for NSW, who played more than 70 minutes of the game with 12 players, following Joseph Suaalii's send off for a high shot on Reece Walsh.

Pictured right to left, former NSW coach Phil Gould, Nicho Hynes and Nathan Cleary.
Former NSW coach Phil Gould says Nicho Hynes needs to play his own game for the Blues rather than try to replicate Nathan Cleary in the State of Origin. Pic: Getty

Hynes was criticised for his kicking game and his last-tackle plays in attack for the Blues, but considering they were a man down for most of the game, a lot of the backlash was quite harsh on the 27-year-old. And Gould says he believes the Blues failed to tailor their game plan around Hynes like the high-flying Sharks do in the NRL. The former NSW coach said it seemed obvious to him like Maguire was trying to make Hynes fit into his game plan, rather than developing it around the half.

"I think Nicho Hynes is a very unique sort of player," Gould said on Nine's 100% Footy. "He really suits the Cronulla Sharks. They are the blokes he trains with every week, every session, he plays both sides of the field. He's got a unique way of running the ball. He is kind of instinctive in what he does.

"[But] if Mitchell Moses was available leading into Origin I - they'd pick Mitchell Moses. I was worried with how that [Hynes] would gel with all these other players on a five-day preparation leading into Origin. We really didn't tap into him at all. We didn't play Nicho Hynes sort of football.

"To me looking at it was kinda like they asked Nicho to fit in with them rather than them fit in with Nicho. I don't know if that would've made him overly comfortable. The key [for Maguire's next selection] is whether or not that experience from Origin I is going to give [Hynes] confidence or if it's going to take away his confidence. Has it done him good or bad?"

Gould conceded that Maguire has a big decision to make about whether to keep Hynes or bring in Moses for Game II. But he says if the Cronulla star retains his place, then the Blues need to forget trying to make Hynes play like injured No.7 Nathan Cleary and just allow him to play his own game, like Moses and Cody Walker were able to when NSW won Game III last year.

"I think if you're going to have a Nicho Hynes in this side... I'm not saying he's not an Origin player or won't be [in Origin II]," Gould added. "I think the coach really needs to accommodate Nicho and the way Nicho wants to play.

"Everyone on both edges knows what he does. They know the lines he's going to run and in Origin I felt like he got left stranded a number of times. It's kind of like we bring in a halfback and we want them to play like Nathan Cleary - well, there's only one Nathan Cleary. They've got to come in and play their own natural game...

"The difference the year before was that Cody Walker just comes in and plays Cody Walker football. He doesn't care. He just comes in and plays his game. That's what he does and that's why we were successful. We won that last game last year 24-10 and we made 12 changes to that side."

Seen here, Nicho Hynes playing for NSW in State of Origin Game I.
Nicho Hynes is under pressure to keep his State of Origin spot after a heavy defeat for 12-man NSW in Game I. Pic: Getty

Hynes returned to training with the Sharks on Tuesday after being rested for last week's win over Brisbane and showed no signs of the calf issue that has given him trouble recently. He has another chance to press his claims to retain a spot in the NSW side for Game II when the Sharks host the Dolphins on Thursday night.

Blues coach Maguire has also been boosted by positive injury news around Dylan Edwards, Haumole Olakau'atu and Liam Martin. Penrith fullback Edwards has been named to start in Sunday's match against Newcastle after being replaced in the NSW side by James Tedesco, due to a quad injury. Martin has also been battling a quad complaint and suffered a foot injury in Game I for the Blues but has been named on the extended bench for Penrith and is expected to be fit to run out at the MCG for Origin II.

Olakau'atu has also been named in Manly's starting side to play the Dragons on Sunday after hobbling off with a calf injury in the round 14 loss to Penrith. The powerful second-rower came off the bench for NSW in Game I and is hoping to retain his place in Maguire's side for the second match. Blues stalwart Cameron Murray will also be pushing his claims for the Blues after being named to return from a hip injury for Souths in Friday night's game against the Broncos.