Roo awakening: Hynes’ mission now is to avoid membership of Australia’s one-Test wonders club

Sharks star Nicho Hynes gets his long-awaited chance to make his Kangaroos debut on Saturday – his mission now is to ensure he doesn’t become the latest in a long line of one one-Test wonders. 

He has the talent to not only shine as a bench utility to replace any of the four members of the spine or slot in elsewhere in the side if needed and with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans in the twilight of his Test career, Hynes is a solid chance to be Nathan Cleary’s long-term deputy in the Australian side. 

But due to the spread-out nature of the international rugby league fixturing and the intense competition for spots, sometimes a player can only get one shot at a green and gold jersey. 

Hynes and fellow debutant Tom Flegler will become the 850th and 851st players to represent Australia when they run onto AAMI Park for the Pacific Championships showdown with New Zealand. 

There have been 110 players who represented Australia just the once since 1908 – many in the pioneering days were victims of circumstance in that matches were played infrequently and teams often had to spend months on a boat to reach their opposition in the north of England. 

Nicho Hynes. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

In the NRL era following the bizarre scenes in the mid 1990s of two teams representing Australia, officially and unofficially, against opponents who were watered-down versions of their usual calibre, there have been 22 one-Test wonders for the Kangaroos.

That tally does not include the debut quartet from the recent win over Samoa – Selwyn Cobbo, Dylan Edwards, Kotoni Staggs and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. Edwards, Staggs and “Hammer” have retained their spots this Saturday. 

The good news for Hynes, Flegler and Cobbo is that Mal Meninga tends to give players more than one Test to prove themselves at Test level.

Since he took over the coaching reins in 2016, Fijian dual international Semi Radradra and Matt Moylan are the only two players who have been cast aside after one Test. 

Hynes knows the sting of being selected in a rep side only to be turfed after a solitary chance.

After being the standby reserve in the No.18 jersey a couple of times, he was selected on the interchange for NSW in Origin I this year but was only given 11 minutes at the end of the match in Adelaide out of position at centre when Tom Trbojevic was felled by a high shot.

Hynes missed a crucial tackle on Cameron Munster which led to Queensland’s go-ahead try in their 26-18 comeback win and even though Cleary was unavailable for game two, the selectors dumped the Cronulla playmaker from the squad all together with Mitchell Moses getting the nod.

The impact of the snubbing led to a mini dip in Hynes’ form at club level but he bounced back to play a key role in Cronulla qualifying for the finals.

Flegler, after breaking into the Maroons side in 2021, followed up with a season to forget as judiciary dramas stunted his progress but his efforts for the Broncos this year were rewarded with a Queensland recall and the Dolphins-bound prop deserves a crack at the Test arena.

Tom Flegler is tackled. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

One-Test Kangaroos in NRL era

1999 – Russell Richardson and Robbie Ross: They were both picked after breakout years at club level. Richardson was Andrew Ettingshausen’s young centre apprentice at minor premiers Cronulla while Ross was an integral part of Melbourne’s premiership success at fullback. 

Richardson scored a try but Australia lost the opening match of the Tri Nations series to New Zealand 24-22 in Auckland and Darren Lockyer and Shaun Timmins replaced the debutant duo in the next match. 

Ross and Richardson never played at rep level again as their careers were hampered by injuries with both players retiring well before their 30th birthday.

2002 – Hazem El Masri: Despite his record-breaking point-scoring efforts with the Bulldogs, “El Magic” was only selected for one Test and also received a solitary Origin appearance from NSW. He at least got the chance to play more matches at rep level, running out for Lebanon on nine occasions.

2005 – Luke Priddis and Eric Grothe jnr: Priddis had the misfortune to be stuck behind Danny Buderus and Cameron Smith. Buderus was injured for the Anzac Test in ‘05 so Priddis got his debut but the Knights star reclaimed the No.9 jersey later that year before Smith inherited it the following year. Grothe followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a Kangaroo in a Tri Nations romp in France on the end-of-season tour.

2006 – Reni Maitua, Antonio Kaufusi and Ben Hornby: Maitua also played three games for Samoa and Kaufusi played four times for Tonga while Hornby’s selection at halfback against Great Britain in the Tri Nations attracted plenty of criticism to coach Ricky Stuart for picking the Dragons playmaker ahead of Johnathan Thurston.

Australia lost 23-12 to the Lions and Thurston returned the following game and had a stranglehold on the spot for most of the following decade.

2007 – Dallas Johnson and Brett Stewart: The Queenslanders were always up in arms when higher-profile players were selected ahead of their workhorse in Johnson who got through a mountain of work at lock. 

Given his game-breaking ability and brilliant athleticism, it’s hard to believe Stewart only represented his country once but Darren Lockyer and Anthony Minichiello were an ongoing roadblock to his selection claims at fullback. He scored a try in his only Test, a 58-0 cakewalk against New Zealand in Wellington.

2008 – Carl Webb 2008 and Terry Campese: Webb was a wrecking ball for the Maroons in 12 Origins but lacked the consistency at club level to get any more than one shot for Australia while Campese played his only Test for the Kangaroos a year prior to getting one match for NSW and also ending up a one-Origin wonder.

2010 – Michael Weyman and Dean Young: The St George Illawarra duo were rewarded as part of the team’s premiership year with Young defying the odds in a career beset by serious knee injuries to add a Blues jersey the following season to the Kangaroos one he had earned.

Head Coach Mal Meninga has named two debutants for our Pacific Championships match against New Zealand! ????


— Gallagher Australian Kangaroos (@Kangaroos) October 24, 2023

2011 – Jamal Idris and Kade Snowden: Idris had a rapid rise in the early stages of his career at Canterbury to become a Kangaroo in his fourth year before less-successful stints at the Gold Coast, Penrith and the Wests Tigers while Snowden was a standout performer in some underwhelming Sharks sides who also represented Italy twice at the 2013 World Cup.

2012 – Dave Taylor: Taylor, like Idris, was a phenomenal talent who was earmarked for big things as a teenager but after making his name at Brisbane and Souths, his career petered out as he bounced around the Titans and Raiders.

2014 – Aidan Guerra and Daniel Tupou: Guerra was an under-rated part of the Roosters’ 2013 premiership squad and after representing Italy at the World Cup that year, he got a run for the Kangaroos the following season in a Four Nations loss to the Kiwis. Tupou, who also scored a try in the Grand Final win over Manly, was called up for Australia the following year before going on to play 16 Tests for Tonga.

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

2015 – Alex Johnston: After being part of South Sydney’s 2014 Grand Final win in 2014 and getting his debut the following year in the Anzac Test, it appeared it would be the start of a lengthy rep career for Johnston. Despite his record-breaking try-scoring exploits for the Rabbitohs, he has been constantly overlooked by Blues and Kangaroos selectors due to concerns over his defence and has represented Papua New Guinea on eight occasions.

2016 – Semi Radradra and Matt Moylan: Meninga’s decision to select Radradra for the Anzac Test caused plenty of drama because the Fijian winger was ineligible to play Origin. He was later banned from selection for the end-of-season Four Nations as he was facing serious court charges. Radradra left Parramatta and the NRL the following season to take up a lucrative French club rugby deal. 

Moylan was considered a long-term option to succeed Billy Slater as Kangaroos fullback but the talented Panther ended up switching to five-eighth at club level and didn’t add to his one Test or three NSW appearances.

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