Home state New South Wales coach Brad Fittler has been criticized by fans for rarely using reigning NRL Dally-M winner Nicho Hynes.
In his Origin debut, the Cronulla star had to wait until the 69-minute mark in the series opener against Queensland, all due to an injury to Tom Trbojevic.
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The 26-year-old was seen in Nine’s coverage sitting on the bench in the 61st minute as commentator Matthew Thompson asked: “Is there a role for Nicho Hynes here?”
New South Wales’ Andrew Johns replied, “I think it was around this time that Brad Fittler was thinking about putting Nicho Hynes in the reserve half.”
Trbojevic was sidelined with Category 1 concussion symptoms after suffering an HIA and was unable to play again, meaning the Manly full-back will not play for his club this weekend.
Hynes was ready and waiting to replace him, but judging by the sounds of Fittler’s post-game press conference, the Sharks star might not have made it onto the field at all had it not been for the injury.
“There was always an option with Hooker, but I thought Api (Koroisau) did a good job there,” Fittler said when asked about Hynes’ role.
“When you have someone there who is versatile you have to wait for a full-back to get injured and Tom happened to be in Category 1 so he was moved to right centre.”
Having bet on his team selection for the opening game of State of Origin, Fittler will now have bet on a number of unknowns as the Blues try to keep the series alive.
Fittler, who was defeated 26-18 against the indefatigable Queenslanders in Adelaide, will need to consider radical changes if he is to avoid defeat at Suncorp Stadium on June 21.
Fittler wanted his side to be more aggressive and powerful after being intimidated in last year’s decider outside the park.
The NSW manager fielded the untried duo of Hudson Young and Tevita Pangai Jr and neither managed to prevail in the game.
They also lacked the intimidating presence of Latrell Mitchell after the bulldozing center was out Monday with a calf injury.
“It’s a fair bit away,” Fittler said of his Game II team picks.
“We’ll see what happens in a couple of weeks, then we’ll move on.”
“I’ll be chatting with him (Mitchell) in the next few days. He messaged the lads saying everything is going pretty well – hopefully he’s fit and ready for selection.”
Question marks over the possible selections of Mitchell, Pangai Jr. and Young will cause much consternation for Fittler over the next two weeks before he names his Game 2 squad.
NSW has never saved a series by winning in Queensland in Origin’s 41-year history.
The stakes are also high for Fittler on a personal level, as winning a series earns him a contract extension.
For his part, Young is confident he’s done enough to keep his place and help the Blues keep their hopes of winning the title alive.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted but it was a huge step for me in my career,” said the Canberra forward.
“We can learn a lot from this. I made a costly mistake trying out a one-on-one flick.
“I’d like to think I’ve done enough, it’s my first Origin game and I know the type of player I am and I hope the coaching staff will support me.”
Adding to the Blues’ worries is that Manly’s schedule means Trbojevic will not have a game to show his fitness.
– With AAP