NRL 2024: Blues coach Michael Maguire defends Nicho Hynes ahead of State of Origin opener against Queensland Maroons

Blues manager Michael Maguire says anyone who doubts the origins of Nich Hynes based on one half of football need only look at his first nine games of the season.

With Hynes missing heavily against Penrith when he sat out the second half, Maguire is adamant the rookie half is ready to handle the pressure of playing in front of 80,000 fans on Wednesday night.

The former Dally M winner has been one of the most in-form players this season and a key reason the Sharks led the league, but his 12 attempted assists and accuracy in front of goal have been overlooked by some for his struggles last start.

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Hynes struck out two full balls, left for an HIA and didn’t return in the second half with a calf concern as the Sharks were hammered at home by the Panthers 42-0.

But Maguire insisted that meant nothing to him despite calls from across the northern border for the Maroons to target him in the first game.

The NSW halfback will step up for the biggest game of his career to make amends for a difficult role on debut 12 months ago that saw him dropped for the rest of the series.

“Don’t worry about that. Not at all. Have you watched the previous 10 games he’s played?” Maguire responded when asked about Penrith’s performance.

“But you keep going and he’s human without a doubt. He thinks about origins. You think about all sorts of things.

“Many a player has gone through exactly what he went through in the last game. It’s actually irrelevant.

“This is history (his Origin debut). In a fast-paced game, you are thrown into the deep end, it moves. To be honest, it’s a great experience for him.

“Everybody faces a little bit (of adversity) in their career and he’s no different.

“He’s very well prepared and knows his role in this game so I don’t look back on (last year) to be honest.”

Hynes was a doubt last week with a hamstring injury, but Maguire says his player is “100 per cent”, with the half-back likely to beat Zac Lomax and Stephen Crichton for goalscoring duties.

And while Queensland great Cameron Smith has urged the Maroons to target Hynes, coach Billy Slater said it was not part of the game plan.

“If you put too much energy into one opponent, you forget your mission,” he said.

“I’ve played the game at this level, I’ve been lucky enough to play 31 times for Queensland.

“Every position is under pressure, it’s a tough game. Fatigue sets in. We will try to continue our game and this will translate into pressure on the opponent.

“There is no one individual to isolate or try to capture.”

The build-up to this year’s Origin series has been very tame so far and Maguire was reluctant to stoke any potential fires sparked by Maroons legend Gorden Tallis.

Tallis stated that he would be embarrassed to be released and then called into the squad, as NSW fullback James Tedesco was when Dylan Edwards was dropped.

“I’m not paying attention to anything. I didn’t even pay attention to it. I didn’t care what was happening around us. It all depends on what we do in camp and that’s how I’ve always worked,” Maguire said.

“It was a big decision but I’ve given all the reasons why I chose Dyl but it’s not about Teddy coming in and bringing his wealth of experience.

“He’s playing great so he’s a great player to bring in when you’re in a moment like this.”

The injury took a heartbreaking toll on Edwards, who led the Dally M poll before it went private and did everything he could to earn his Origin debut.

But Tedesco opens the door to reclaim his No.1 jersey, with the former captain having to adapt to a new game plan while bringing his strengths to bear.

“We’ve talked about how we want to set up our game, but Teddy will be able to express himself,” the rookie coach said.

“They are quite similar in how they play and how hard they work, but Teddy has his own combinations which we have discussed with the players and he will fit in perfectly.

“We’ve made some changes to how we want to play, but I’ve also looked at the players I’ve picked.

“I really like to bring the qualities of the players that are in every position so that we want to play.

“I think it’s important to play to the strengths of the players because you don’t want to hold them back from doing the things they want to do, but they also have some structure to play against.”

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