The rise and rise of Nicho Hynes towards a grand final
Days out from the biggest game of his career, Melbourne Storm utility Nicho Hynes says he wouldn't be playing in the NRL grand final if he didn't move to the Sunshine Coast.
It's been two years and a month since Hynes was signed to the Sunshine Coast Falcons from the Mackay Cutters in a masterstroke move for both parties.
It allowed the rookie to spend a pre-season at the Melbourne Storm before he returned to his affiliate club the Falcons.
Looking back, Hynes said it was the making of him.
"I remember coming here for the rest of Falcons pre-season just after a Storm pre-season not knowing if I was going to go back," Hynes said.
"Now I'm in a grand final, it's so surreal. I don't know what to feel.
"I had good times in Mackay and met some great people but footy wise it might not have been the best place for me.
"Coming to the Falcons and Storm is easily the best decision of my life so far."
Hynes said he threw himself into pre-season with the Storm during the summer of 2019 and soaked up as much knowledge and insight as possible.
Then when he linked back with the Falcons, he added his knowledge into his game.
"Having Eric Smith as a coach, who came from the Storm, that helped," the 24-year-old said.
"I was able to implement things into my game that they do at the Storm.
"Smith really helped me evolve into the player I wanted to be."
Under Smith, the Falcons won 13 games on the bounce and claimed the minor premiership.
But Hynes, who shifted from fullback, to the halves and centre, was often a frustrated figure at the chopping and changing role.
In hindsight the ability to play multiple positions has worked in his favour as he looks to inject himself off the bench on Sunday.
"I wasn't keen on it at the time, I wanted to play my position, but it helped me get signed and helped me get into the grand final team," he said.
Be it one minute or 80, Hynes will take that same raw ability into Sunday afternoon's grand final against the Penrith Panthers.
It will be just the 13th game of his career but one that caps a remarkable rise from a part timer to fully fledged star.