State of Origin news 2023, exclusive, Phil Gould worried Nicho Hynes axed by NSW Blues

Former New South Wales coach Phil Gould admits he’s “worried” the Blues decided to dump Nicho Hynes from the team.

Hynes made his State of Origin debut from the bench in game one, but only got an awkward 11 minutes at right centre when Tom Trbojevic was concussed late in the piece.

Hynes missed a crucial tackle that led to the decisive Queensland try.

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The Sharks halfback, and reigning Dally M Medal winner, was subsequently axed from the squad altogether ahead of next week’s daunting Suncorp Stadium tie.

The Blues have instead opted to play two specialist hookers, with Reece Robson to debut alongside the experienced Damien Cook.

“They’ll have a reason why they wanted to cover hooker on the bench on this occasion,” Gould said on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

“I’m a bit worried we don’t have a halves replacement. I would’ve pumped for Nicho Hynes on the bench.

“I think right at the moment that’s the best place for Nicho Hynes, on the bench for NSW.

“It was just unfortunate in game one that he had to be used in probably the one position you didn’t want to have to use him.

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“He can certainly cover fullback, half, five-eighth, he could cover lock-forward, and I think he could cover dummy-half.

“Nicho Hynes would’ve been my selection on the bench, but for some reason those internally thought they need the two-hooker model.”

Cook kept waiting before Freddy’s call

Queensland employs the same model that NSW has now adopted, with Ben Hunt starting at hooker and Harry Grant coming off the bench.

“Queensland tend to start with Ben Hunt and then they bring Harry Grant on after that, and Harry Grant comes on and everything lifts in intensity and spark,” Gould said.

“If you wanted to replicate that for NSW, maybe Robson does start and Cook comes from the bench.

“But do you want to do it like Queensland, or maybe do it the other way around? Get Damien Cook out there, try to get to the front early, then bring Robson on later when Harry Grant is running amok and you’re looking for defence.”

Cook has been named at No.9 and Robson on the bench, but that’s not to say coach Brad Fittler won’t pull a switch before kick-off.

Robson is a bigger body and is solid defensively, suggesting he could withstand the brutality of the opening stages of Origin.

Gould says whichever way Fittler is leaning, he needs to make a decision as soon as possible.

“They need to make that decision early in the week so everyone knows what they’re doing. They need to have their strategy right, whatever their strategy is,” he said.

“Whether it means (debutant prop) Stefano (Utoikamanu) starts, or Cook is on the bench… the plan needs to be clear from the get-go, understand why we are doing this and go out and execute it.

“It’s a 17-man game, Origin. Everyone plays their part, you need to have a plan and you need to stick to it.”

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