How Billy Slater transformed Nicho Hynes from a 'no frills fullback' into a Dally M winning strike weapon - and how it could come back to bite him this State of Origin series

Slater mentored Hynes at Melbourne Storm Hynes has now been named for New South Wales Maroons coach has to devise a way to stop him 

Billy Slater spent years working on Nicho Hynes’ game, but the Maroons coach now has a few days to devise a plan to ensure the NSW debutant doesn’t start his Origin career with a win.

Hynes says he hasn’t spoken with Slater since he was picked to make his debut in Adelaide next week, but that will change after the game when the pair will likely hug it out four years after they first came together.

It was back at the Storm where Hynes was a no-frills fullback hoping for an opportunity that he got in round 21 when he made his debut against South Sydney in front of friends and family in Gosford.

He was solid at the back, making 83m with regulars Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen missing, and no one could have predicted that game would kickstart one of the greatest journeys for a guy who had been through it all.

Hynes played two more seasons at Melbourne, where he absolutely dominated in 2021 at fullback, before the Sharks pinched him in a move that has made them premiership contenders.

He’s had 62 try assists in his past 57 games, and Hynes puts it all down to the man whose job it is to make sure he leaves Adelaide with a loss.

Hynes will get to live out a childhood dream when he makes his State of Origin debut for New South Wales in Adelaide on May 31

Hynes will get to live out a childhood dream when he makes his State of Origin debut for New South Wales in Adelaide on May 31

Nicho Hynes made his debut not far from where he grew up and was mentored by Billy Slater in his early days at fullback

Nicho Hynes made his debut not far from where he grew up and was mentored by Billy Slater in his early days at fullback

Hynes started working with Billy Slater the moment he started training with the Storm's main squad.

Hynes started working with Billy Slater the moment he started training with the Storm’s main squad.

‘Billy was enormous. I even thanked him in my Dally M speech, that’s how much he meant to me,’ Hynes said.

‘He helped me out so much. He’s smart and he has all the tools. No matter what position you play on the field, he knows every minor detail to what you need to do.

‘Even though I wasn’t playing in 2019 when I was still playing reserve grade at the Storm, he would still come over and do one-on-one sessions with me where I’d pick his brain.

‘That set me up for when I got to first grade and was filling in for Paps for that 2021 season.

‘Billy would send me clips and he was doing a lot of work with me and ringing me.

‘It’s hard to talk about the Queensland coach, but I have him to thank for my career.’

Hear from Nicho Hynes inside State of Origin camp ahead of his highly anticipated debut 

Full interview:

— NSWBlues (@NSWBlues) May 22, 2023

Does it get much better than Nicho Hynes and Jimmy Barnes?  The reigning Dally M medalist spending a bit of time at dummy half at the @NSWBlues first training session. @10NewsFirst @cronullasharks

— Ted Roker (@TedRoker) May 23, 2023

Former Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr is so proud of what Hynes has achieved over the past few years, but even he didn’t think the Blues utility would be destined for Origin based on his first few games in the NRL.

‘To be honest, it wasn’t until he had that full season (in 2021),’ the winger said.

‘He debuted in his home town. What are the chances of that? It’s meant to be for some people, and he was one of them.

‘He debuted in his home town, he won a Dally M, he won a premiership and he’s playing Origin now. It’s all because of his hard work that I’ve seen him put in over the years.

‘I’m so proud of him and I always say it to him because I’m so close to him.

‘I knew he always had the potential, and it hit him straight away. That’s what I was most surprised about was how it happened for him straight away.

‘He always sat down with Billy and Craig and he wanted to be better, and that’s why he’s here.’

Hynes will be sure to use the lessons learned from Slater when he takes the field against his former mentor

Hynes will be sure to use the lessons learned from Slater when he takes the field against his former mentor

Slater will have a job to do in nullifying Hynes, the man he helped transform into the best player in the NRL in 2022

Slater will have a job to do in nullifying Hynes, the man he helped transform into the best player in the NRL in 2022

It remains unclear what role Hynes will play in the series opener, but he doesn’t care as long as he gets some minutes after spending the entire 2020 grand final on the bench.

‘I still have nightmares about that grand final and not getting on the field, so as long as I get on the field and play some game time then it will probably top it,’ he said.

That’s about as stressed as Hynes will ever get on a footy field, with the Sharks star learning to cope with setbacks to take it all in his stride.

‘I reckon I’ve been a chilled, calm character my entire life. Maybe not always in footy, but off the field I’m pretty chilled out,’ he said.

‘I like to run amok a bit, but I think I’m too easy going sometimes.

‘My mind definitely got to me a hell of a lot through the early stages of my footy career, but I’ve done heaps of work on it. As a halfback, you need to be the calmest person on the field.

‘I try to implement what I’ve learnt off the field onto it so I can be calm at all times.’

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