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Fleeting moment: How a chance pub meeting propelled Hynes to a glistening NRL career

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A chance meeting at a pub toilet helped pave the way for rugby league’s newest superstar to take his game to the next level, via the Sunshine Coast.

Nicho Hynes won the Dally M Medal on Wednesday night, amassing the most points (38) in the awards history, after a stellar season with the Cronulla Sharks.

“I can’t believe it. It’s bloody crazy. I am pinching myself,” he said.

“To have this around my neck. I frothed Johnathan Thurston growing up, Andrew Johns.

“And now I am alongside them. It’s unbelievable.”

Nicho Hynes in action for the Sharks this year. Picture: AAP.

His path to the top wouldn’t be complete without an opportunistic encounter at a pub in Bowen, which propelled him towards the Sunshine Coast Falcons and then the NRL.

Falcons chairman Ashley Robinson first saw Hynes play for the Mackay Cutters on television in 2018 and then the two teams clashed in a Queensland Cup game at Bowen a few weeks later.

Both sides went to a pub afterwards, where Falcons CEO Chris Flannery made the most of a fleeting encounter.

“He (Hynes) was walking into the toilets as I was walking out and I said to him ‘would you be keen to come down to the Falcons next year?”

“He said ‘I’m keen for a chat’, and it grew from there.”

The then-22-year-old fullback/five-eighth signed with the Falcons for 2019 and quickly found his feet there.

He appeared in 21 games as part of a start-studded team that also included Storm-affiliated players Harry Grant, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Justin Olam and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.

The Falcons won all but one of their regular season games before surprisingly bowing out in finals.

Falcons CEO Chris Flannery.

“He was a step ahead of most players,” Flannery said of Hynes.

“There’s probably only one other player I saw dominate like that at the Falcons – Jahrome Hughes.

“I really liked Nicho’s dedication and commitment when he was with us. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve seen and he deserves everything he gets.

“And he’s a very humble kid. He takes it all in his stride.”

Hynes was largely overlooked while he was at the Manly Sea Eagles under-20s in 2015 and 2016, by Manly, and while he was with the Mackay Cutters in 2017 and 2018, by North Queensland.

But he made every post a winner at the Falcons to score a contract with the Storm by mid-season in 2019.

“When he came to the Falcons, it was probably his last roll of the dice to get an NRL contract and he really impressed the Storm,” Flannery said.

“A lot of the Storm staff flew up to watch the Falcons play against Easts and he had a blinder. That was basically the game that got him signed.”

Nicho Hynes at Storm training in early 2020. Picture: AAP.

The fleet-footed, crisp passing and instinctive player was an instant star in the NRL and his skills were utilised as a versatile starting and bench player by Melbourne from 2019 to 2021.

He was then signed by the Sharks as a starting halfback for 2022, when he took his game to the next level.

“It’s been a meteoric rise to go from the Falcons to the Dally M. It’s amazing,” Flannery said.

Flannery said the Falcons’ goal was to help players get to the top level.

“We always want to win the (Queensland) competition but a major focus is to get our players to the next level and we’ve had guys like Nicho Hynes, Trent Loiero, Tui Kamikamica, Riley Jacks, Chris Lewis and Darryn Schonig come to our club and then get NRL contracts.”

Hynes set up 26 tries for Cronulla, to become the first Shark to win the award since Preston Campbell in 2001.

And he did it all with his mother as his date for the night, admitting she had almost brought him to tears.

“I almost had a little tear come down (during my speech). We have been through a hell of a lot,” he said.

“Everything I do is for her, and obviously my dad too … but mum has had a tougher life.

“To bring her with me and see her smile.

“I saw her (getting emotional), but I couldn’t keep looking otherwise I would have got too emotional.”

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