Knee Injury Benches Cleary, Nicho Hynes Steps Up for Pacific Championship

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In a sudden and unanticipated turn of events, Australia’s readiness to participate in the upcoming Pacific Championship has been significantly jeopardized. Star Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary has been benched due to a confirmed knee injury, causing a realignment within the squad. In response, Cronulla player Nicho Hynes, the 2022 Dally M medalist, has been brought into the line-up.

The extent of Cleary’s injury began to raise concern soon after he was selected by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga on Tuesday. This came after Cleary was injured during Sunday’s thrilling NRL grand final, a victory that was made all the more extraordinary due to the halfback’s capacity to endure and continue playing following his injury in a tackle involving Broncos’ player Payne Haas.

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The magnifying severity of Cleary’s condition was confirmed after scans, leading to speculation that Meninga may turn to the talents of Manly star Daly Cherry-Evans, another halfback already in the squad.

However, it is Hynes who has been enlisted as Cleary’s replacement. Displaying an innate ability to function effectively in the halves, Hynes outperformed this year’s Dally M winner, Kalyn Ponga, securing his place in the team.

Meninga’s strategy is to field “specialists”, given the limited preparation time available before their clash against Samoa on October 14.

In retrospect, Meninga had previously praised Cleary’s exceptional performance in the grand final, asserting that Cleary’s skills had reached “another level” superior to his competition. This compliment was particularly impressive as it confirmed Cleary’s precedence over Cherry-Evans as the starting number seven.

Reflecting on both players’ significant contributions, Meninga pointed out: “Daly has had an unbelievable year but Nathan is at another level at the moment and he showed that on Sunday.”

An anticipation-filled suspense now hangs over Australia’s performance in the forthcoming tournament, as they grapple with this unexpected challenge and gear up to face the Pacific Championship’s fierce contention.