‘He could be next in line’: Hynes backs Brailey for Origin jersey

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With NSW coach Brad Fittler’s two options for hooker – Api Koroisau and Damien Cook – both on the wrong side of 30, Blues debutant Nicho Hynes has thrown his support behind club teammate Blayke Brailey to pick up the No.9 jersey in the coming years.

Cronulla rake Brailey was brought into the NSW camp as the squad’s 20th man, a development position which will have him training with the team until Friday.

“Api and Cookie aren’t getting any younger and, you know, he could be next in line after those guys,” Hynes said of Brailey.

“He’s just got to keep working hard, and if he looks at my pathway as motivation, I hope he does. He’s a great player, and he’s a great guy. I can’t see why he can’t make a transition like I have.”

Hynes got his first break with the Blues as part of the extended squad for game three of the 2021 series, and was selected in the extended squad for the first two matches last year. The Sharks halfback will finally make his State of Origin debut next Wednesday, playing off the bench as a utility.

Brailey described the call from Fittler as a “pinch-me moment” and one of the proudest of his NRL career.

Sharks hooker Blayke Brailey has been taken into NSW Origin camp in a development position.Credit: Brook Mitchell

“I’m staying until Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, and I’ll just be with the team the whole time,” Brailey said. I’ll be training with them, getting the full experience and learning as much as I can.

“I’m just happy to be here. I’m still pinching myself, still a little bit nervous and sort of [got] goosebumps walking in that door and putting on the training clothes. It’s just an unreal experience, and just to be a part of it is really special to me.”

“When you’re a kid you always have those dreams. That’s why you play the game – to make teams like this – [but] there’s always a moment where you’re not sure if you would get there.

“The last few years I have been pushing hard, working hard on my game to get here. To be here, and put that blue jersey on, it’s a really proud moment for myself and also my family.”

Blayke Brailey passes during Blues training on Tuesday.Credit: Getty

South Sydney’s Campbell Graham, who was tipped to land a spot in the NSW back line if Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic wasn’t fit enough, had the same opportunity as Brailey during the 2021 Origin series and was named as 18th man for the 2023 season opener.

Graham has since ruled himself out of the Origin squad with a sternum injury – with Stephen Crichton taking his place in the squad – although Graham has been named to play for the Rabbitohs this weekend.

For now, Brailey said he was eager to learn from NSW No.9 Koroisau, who claimed the jersey instead of Graham’s club teammate Cook.

“It’s always a tough position to be in because obviously you’ve got some great players in front of me with Api and Cook there who have done the job for NSW many times,” Brailey said. “Just to see Api and watch him at training, he’s pretty impressive – he’s a really impressive footballer. Definitely that’s my goal to get there – I’m not too sure when that will be, or what timeframe – but obviously you want to be making these teams, and running out wearing that jersey.

“That’s definitely a goal of mine, and I’m not too sure when that will be, but I’ll keep working hard until that day comes.”

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