Nicho Hynes is unlikely to forget Saturday October 28, 2023. As a crowd was piling into the stands – a sea of green and gold, littered with black jerseys – he emerged from the tunnel to take in the scenes. His NRL career had started just five years ago at the Melbourne Storm; Aami Park his second home for three of those. It was on that very field that he was about to fulfil another childhood dream. As he walked onto his old stomping ground wearing the Australian jersey for the first time, he turned around to see his family and friends in the stands – his mum, his dad, his brother and former coach, Craig Bellamy. A moment he described as “surreal”.  

“Walking onto the field and turning around and seeing where all my friends and family were sitting, it was a pretty special moment,” he said.  

“I’ll look back on it for the rest of my life. 

“It was a full circle. I started my career at the Melbourne Storm and Aami Park was where we did all our training, where our dressing rooms were and all our offices. 

“Obviously having my family and friends there was cool, but having Craig Bellamy there who gave me my first NRL jersey, and then being there for my first Australian jersey, that was really cool.” 

It was the 55th minute of the game, when Hynes took the field, going on to set up the Kangaroo’s final try, sealing their 36 to 18 win against the New Zealand Kiwis 

It was a moment that he did not see coming.  

Rewind three weeks and the Cronulla Shark’s star Halfback was relaxing by his resort pool in Noosa with the Club Chairman and his mate.  

He left his phone in his room, enjoying time off after what had been a rollercoaster year.  

The Chairman received a call. It was Shark’s NRL Head Coach, Craig Fitzgibbon 

“Are you with Nicho?” he asked. “Put him on.” 

Fitzgibbon told Hynes that he had both good news and bad news.  

“The bad news is you’re going to have to cut your holiday short.  

“The good news is you’re going into the Aussie camp.” 

With Nathan Cleary’s withdrawal from the squad, Hynes was called in and within 72-hours he was in Airlie Beach, surrounded by the game’s best players.  

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life with anything to do with rugby league and for so many reasons. 

“You just learn so much. Sometimes you don’t have to sit down with someone to learn things from them. You just sit back and watch them and how they talk in meetings or how they talk in huddles and after drills, and yeah it was just awesome to experience that. 

“Daly Cherry-Evans was probably the pick of the crop for me. I picked his brain and he taught me a lot. He helped me out and he gave me confidence that I needed being back in the rep arena.  

“They showed a lot of faith in me. And then obviously to get the debut was pretty sick.” 

After watching Australia’s first clash of the Pacific Championships against Samoa from the sidelines, he finally received the call-up to make his debut in their second game against New Zealand.  

“It was just a really good week, and I was super pumped for it. 

“Usually I get pretty nervous before games but when I’m coming off the bench I don’t get as nervous. I think it was more excitement knowing you were about to run out in the green and gold for the first time for your country and something you have dreamt of and thought about ever since you were a young kid.” 

Despite finishing the year on a high, he well and truly rode the highs and lows of professional sport this season.  

After receiving the 2022 Dally M Player of the Year medal, Hynes sat down to set goals for the upcoming 2023 season.  

“One of the goals was to play for my State just one time in the series, just to get one game under my belt.” 

Apart from an injury that saw him sidelined for the season’s opening three rounds, Hynes picked up right where he left off.  

He represented his Indigenous heritage in the All-Stars clash at the beginning of the year, winning the Preston Campbell medal, and strung together a number of impressive performances for the Sharks, landing him a Blues jersey in Game One of the State of Origin held in Adelaide.  

It was a dream come true for Hynes, yet it was far from a fairytale ending.  

Thrust into the game in an unfamiliar position with only ten minutes left on the clock, he missed one tackle; the tackle that led to Queensland’s game-winning try.  

Trolls took to social media, news outlets thoroughly documented the moment, and Hynes’ confidence was left shattered.  

“I was probably the most rattled I’d ever been in my Rugby League career to date after that Origin game,” he said 

“We lost the Origin and went into Melbourne and Brisbane and lost two games in a row with the Sharks. 

“Everyone was talking about me. It was no doubt the toughest experience I’ve had so far.” 

But Hynes attributes his subsequent success to that one split second in the game.  

“Yes I missed a tackle in an Origin game, but that sort of set me up for who I am and what I’m doing now. 

“It’s probably been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me because now I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about my character and my football ability and now I’m more confident than ever.  

“Like the old saying goes, ‘You can’t have highs without lows’, and I’m grateful I’ve experienced it.” 

Reflecting on the year, he realised that although not perfect, it wasn’t as bad as he initially thought.  

There were wins and there were lessons.  

“It was a small rollercoaster ride, but at the end of the day when I sit here and reflect on it, I got to play All Stars and got the Preston Campbell medal and got to play for my state and my country and we still played finals footy. 

“When you look back at it, it’s not that bad of a season. Yeah, I can look back and say I have learned a hell of a lot, but at the end of the day, I had a pretty good year.  

“I’ll always hold myself accountable and to a high standard… I’ll learn from it and be better next year and I won’t let that happen again.” 

He has achieved almost everything you can in the game of Rugby League – so what is next for Hynes? 

A premiership ring.  

“There’s always personal goals, but I think the most important thing for me right now is guiding my Sharks team to a good finals campaign and really making sure we hit the ground running. 

“The next challenge is picking the boys up and flying straight into preseason and trials. Obviously, there’s going to be a bit of hurt from the semi-final, but it’s about moving forward and being the best possible leader I can be to make sure the boys are ready to go Round One.  

“It’s time to go. There’s no more stuffing around, it’s now or never.”