Nicho Hynes, to the mid-point of the 2023 season, had been the NRL's best player for 18 months, but his form drop off since being selected on the bench in Game 1 of the State of Origin series has raised alarm bells for both Cronulla Sharks, and New South Wales fans.
The Origin selection came after a campaign for Hynes to partner Cleary in the halves wearing the number six jumper, but ultimately came to nothing, with coach Brad Fittler instead electing to select Jarome Luai in a continuation of last year's partnership.
The Blues went on to lose the Origin series 2-1 with a stagnant attack only being saved after forced changes were made for Game 3.
Hynes ultimately played a handful of minutes in the centres at the back end of a disastrous Game 1 for the Blues, and hasn't been the same player for the ailing Sharks ever since.
On this week's Zero Tackle Knock On Podcast, Instagram user Fred.Rankin_ asked hosts Dan Nichols and Terry Mortimer whether Hynes was an Origin-level player.
Nichols agreed that his form has been poor, but said it doesn't mean Hynes isn't an Origin level player.
"I don't neccessarily agree with that. I think he will play Origin, and I think he was hard done by in Game 1," Nichols said.
"So many people say that these halfbacks can't play behind a beaten pack, yet they bag Nicho Hynes and Cronulla arguably have the worst pack in the game, so I think it's in the middle. If you put Nicho in front of a pack that's going forward, he wins the Dally M as he did last year, but on form, it's hard to argue."
Mortimer agreed with his co-host.
"On form, it's hard to argue, but leading into Origin he was up there with one of the best players in the competition. He had missed the first three rounds of footy and was Top 5 in the Dally M," Mortimer said.
You can watch the full episode of this week's Knock On Podcast, as well as other rugby league video, on the Zero Tackle YouTube Channel or listen wherever you get your podcasts.