NRL Rd 2 - Sharks v Eels
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Nicholas Hynes of the Sharks runs with the ball during the round two NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels at PointsBet Stadium, on March 19, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

It is now under a month until Origin 1 kicks off in Sydney. That means we have three-or-so weeks to speculate about the makeup of each squad.

Truthfully I find the lead up to Origin as extremely disruptive. It's almost a distraction from the NRL action, but come kick-off, nothing in the world matters as much as the result of that game.

In the last fortnight, the New South Wales Blues have lost Origin certainty Cameron Murray. We will discuss who will replace the Rabbitoh and Origin superstar later in the week.

Also joining Murray, as well as Latrell Mitchell, in the casualty award as we approach Origin 1 is arguably the form player of the competition - Ryan Papenhuyzen.

The Storm superstar, and the owner of the most iconic haircut in the game, was considered a lock for Origin selection come Game 1.

Papenhuyzen came within a whisker of a debut in Game 3 in 2020. Given James Tedesco's head injury inside 20 minutes, it was a missed opportunity.

Ironically Papenhuyzen missed Origin consideration in 2021 due to a head injury of his own. Prior to that Magic Round incident, he was leading the Dally M Count and looked like he would nab a bench spot.

Fast forward to Round 9 in 2022 and again the Storm speedster is tearing the competition apart. Again though injury has struck at the worst time and he will be unavailable for at least the series opener.

Given the increased speed in the overall game, combined with the tightening of HIA protocols, naming a utility player on the bench has become a necessity.

In another case of cruel irony, Papenhuyzen's injury has again opened the door for the man who launched his career in 2021 due to Papenhuyzen being unavailable.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm runs the ball during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images, Image supplied by Kayo)

Sharks halfback Nicho Hynes has now surely firmed into Origin contention, if he wasn't already.

I'd argue straight off the bat in a pure utility role that Hynes fills the position better than Papenhuyzen.

Coming off a man of the match performance against the Warriors, Hynes is firmly in Dally M contention despite switching positions. He stormed onto the scene in 2021 at fullback, yet was signed by Craig Fitzgibbon to lead his new side in the number seven.

Despite being the junior partner in the halves combination Hynes is absolutely the main man in the Shire. He kicks, he controls and he calls the shots.

His playmaking skills and ability to play on both sides of the field have allowed Matt Moylan to play his natural game. This had ensured the Sharks are a far different beast in 2022.

Hynes was forced to return to his old stomping grounds at fullback this past fortnight due to William Kennedy's sending off and suspension.

He was comfortably the best player on the park playing a in a hybrid role of fullback in defence and halfback in attack while the Sharks had just 12 against the New Zealand Warriors.

I'll put it to the people right now - who offers more utility value (and is eligible for selection) than Nicho Hynes?

He's starred at fullback and in the halves, has played in the centres and has time playing at lock.

Jack Wighton is the man most likely to provide a roadblock to Nicho's Origin debut. He can play anywhere from one and seven and runs like a forward.

The only difference between the two is current form. Hynes is breathing fire while Wighton is struggling in a side who are playing well below-par.


Wighton looks frustrated and was recently suspended. Meanwhile, Hynes has played every minute of every game this season to date and looks in career-best form.

Clint Gutherson and Victor Radley are other options for the utility role. Neither would let anyone down, but again, Hynes has the edge in form and value.

Radley can fill in at nine but if Cleary or Luai go down, a big shuffle will be needed. Same too a centre, winger or fullback.

Gutherson offers one to six coverage and has Origin experience.

Hynes though, perhaps prop aside, can slot in anywhere. Given that NSW is likely to go with a huge pack, I don't see any way a utility would be forced into that spot.

For that reason, I'm ruling Gutherson and Radley out for now.

The only question here for Brad Fittler is does he go with experience and size in Wighton or does he go with the form, utility value and upside of Nicho Hynes?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 10: Blues coach Brad Fittler looks on during game three of the 2019 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on July 10, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

I'm always a big believer that if a decision is close that you go with the form player.

Even the biggest of Canberra fans will surely concede that their man is not firing as he can this season.

Sharks fans, myself included, are only all too happy to remind you that Hynes has been at the centre of everything this season for the club. His form is top-level and his confidence is sky-high.

I wouldn't go so far as to say Nicho Hynes is the only option for the role but right now he's absolutely the best option.