MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Nicho Hynes of the Storm is tackled during the round eight NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on April 30, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Melbourne Storm are absolutely flying right now. The defending Premiers are heavy favourites to defend their crown.

Truth be told there are very few questions about this purple juggernaut.

They have the best coach in the business, a 1 through 17 with superstars all over the park, and the experience and know-how to get it done.

The one question they do have, however, is an absolute beauty and one that each and every other coach in the NRL right now would be jealous of.

Do the Storm push forward with the supremely in form Nicho Hynes in the fullback role or do they go back to superstar Ryan Papenhuyzen?

On the surface, this seems simple. Go back to the first choice one, right? Surely?

Well, under normal circumstances, sure... But, we're talking a Storm outfit that has been rolling over sides for weeks and is on track to set a host of point-scoring records.

Nicho Hynes has been the best player on the field in the majority of those massive wins.

Better than Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster. Harry Grant too when he's been there. Obviously having those players has helped but the stats don't lie.

In his 16 appearances in 2021, Hynes has six tries, 16 try assists, 25 line break assists, 13 line breaks and 134 running metres per game.

15 of those try assists and of have come in the last 12 games, where he has started in the absence of Papenhuyzen.

It's not hyperbole to suggest Hynes is among the top four or five form players of the competition and with Nathan Cleary's injury, is neck and neck with Cody Walker in the Dally M race.

His form made him the most sought after player on the open market with the Sharks beating out a host of teams to secure his services for 2021.

Outside of the Sea Eagles, Roosters and possibly the Rabbitohs, there isn't a side that Hynes wouldn't walk into as their starting number one.

Other than of course the Melbourne Storm.

NRL Rd 11 - Raiders v Storm
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 22: Nicho Hynes of the Storm shares a laugh with a team mate after the warm-up before the round 11 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Melbourne Storm at GIO Stadium, on May 22, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Pre-injury Ryan Papenhuyzen was the form fullback of the competition. Way ahead of Tedesco and Trell, while Turbo was yet to return and hit full form.

In his opening five games, including one game that only lasted 65 minutes, he scored eight tries, had four try assists, 23 tackle breaks and eight line breaks. He was also routinely running for well over 150 metres.

Unfortunately, his injury did stunt his 2021 season but it did not stunt the Storm's momentum in the slightest thanks for the genius that is Nicho Hynes.

Rugby League Outlaws talk Nicho Hynes in this week's ep

Even the great Papenhuyzen cannot be expected to hit the ground running and return to his brilliant best after such a serious injury layoff.

We saw this past weekend that he was well below his best. I'd argue the Storm fell off the pace when Hynes was shifted to allow Papenhuyzen to return.

Not for a single second can I, or anyone, place blame on the returning number one. He's spent the past two months recovering from an injury that we're still learning how to treat.

In terms of the pure footy though, do the Storm go back to the guy who had lit up the competition in the early rounds or press on with the guy who is currently lighting it up?

Obviously, both will be there somewhere. In this week's top of the table clash with the Panthers, the Storm used Hynes to start with Papenhuyzen on the bench.

This looks a way to ease Papenhuyzen back in... Or is it the plan moving forward?

Do you really bench the red hot, arguable form player of the competition and risk slowing down?

2020 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 25: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm celebrates scoring a try during the 2020 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Storm are almost unbackable favourites to capture the minor premiership yet again. A slight slow down wouldn't hurt, but again, most clubs would do horrible things for a player in the form of Hynes.

I'd suggest that the Storm will name Hynes at one across the next two or three weeks. This allows Papenhuyzen to come back in at his own pace and pick his spots.

There will likely come a time where there is a late switch and Papanehuyzen runs out.

The Storm play the Panthers, Sea Eagles and Raiders before the Titans, Eels and Sharks round out their regular season.

If I'm the Raiders or Titans I'm certainly planning for Papenhuyzen to start.

This would allow him a month in his favoured fullback position which would see Hynes switch back to the bench, or fill in as the Storm rest the likes of Munster or Hughes.

I can't really see a scenario where the Storm don't enter the finals with Papenhuyzen in the number one with Hynes shifting back to being the game's best utility reserve.

What a position for Craig Bellamy to be in!

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