Cronulla playmaker Nicho Hynes insists he is not disappointed he missed out on being selected for the State of Origin decider as his ax will allow him to face his former side, premiership heavyweights Melbourne.

NSW coach Brad Fittler selected Hynes as the 18th man for the first two games of 2022 and the final game of last year’s series.

The 26-year-old looked close to making his home state debut but has instead been relegated to the expanded roster in favor of Jack Wighton, who has recovered from COVID-19 and will line up as 18th man.

But Hynes said he could see the bright side of his axe: He is now free for Thursday night’s litmus test against second-placed Storm.

“I have the chance to stay here and play against the Storm first and then go to (Origin camp),” he said.

“I’m very grateful they let me do that.

“The Sharks are the priority now, but once I’ve finished the game, the NSW Blues will be my priority.”

Fittler declared Wighton NSW’s best player in the Origin I loss and Hynes said the former Dally M medalist had earned the right to be part of the match day squad.

“I have to be 18th man the last two games and Jackie Wighton deserves to come back somewhere on the team,” he said.

“If that’s supposed to turn me off, so be it.”

Hynes’ Origin dream is still very much alive though – the former Storm utility has set itself the target of starring in next year’s series.

“I had a goal this year to be in the roster in all three games and I was lucky enough to do that,” he said.

“Next year I will probably try to stay with the 17 for at least one game.”

Hynes said Storm coach Craig Bellamy would demand that his side make a statement against Cronulla after last week’s disappointing 36-30 loss to Manly.

Without Cameron Munster, Melbourne struggled to contain the Sea Eagles, who would have won much more convincingly had they not faded in the final 10 minutes.

“I can just picture in my head (Bellamy) blowing up at them during halftime and after the game, and what their training sessions would have been like this week,” Hynes said.

“They come here prepared.”

MONKEY

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