Cronulla’s superstar Nicho Hynes is the grandson of a Wiradjuri man and that heritage has dominated his thinking and perception of himself from the moment he knew about it.
As he grew he blossomed into his culture and right now he plays for not only his Cronulla Sharks but also the Indigenous All-Star NRL side and he is very proud to be, in his words, ‘an Aboriginal man.’
But it hasn’t always been clear sailing in his own skin as along the journey for him, it was a rather broken road that led him straight to his Indigenous awareness.
Hynes, the reigning Dally M Player of the Year, brought considerable perspective to his personal life as he revealed heartbreaking details about his childhood.
He did not even know his mother’s father was Aboriginal until he was 12 and it was then upon discovery that he started to learn about his heritage and Wiradjuri culture.
Nicho Hynes on the left of Jack Wighton and Latrell Mitchell won the coveted Preston Campbell award during 2023 Indigenous All-Star match
The Sharks star stunned in an exclusive News Corp photo shoot
Hynes featured in News Corp’s magazine, Stellar
”You’re too white to be black’,’ I was told by all the kids at school when I found out,’ Hynes told the Daily Telegraph’s Lifestyle magazine, Stellar.
‘And I went back into my shell about it because at the time I really cared what people were saying and it got to me.’
‘But rugby league has this lovely thing where you can get in touch with your culture and learn more about it.’
Which is what Hynes did.
As he developed his rugby league skills he found homes initially with Manly in that club’s under 20s side and away from footy he worked as a Teacher’s Aid in schools.
All the while he became obsessed with learning about his culture.
The stint at Manly was a good grounding in league but they cut him so he went to the Melbourne Storm and it was here that he became noticed as a player with high quality potential.
Now living in the Shire (pictured), Hynes has signed a $7million contract to stay playing with the Cronulla Sharks
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy used him as a super-sub and he filled most positions, and that style of play combined with his extremely likeable demeanor on and off the field caught the attention of the Sharks’ hierarchy.
When they came calling looking for a game-changing halfback he initially accepted a three-year deal with Cronulla that just a few weeks ago turned into the biggest contract offer in Sharks’ history when he inked his way to another five years for $7million.
Life right now for Hynes is astonishing, however, that broken road was leading him down a garden path to ruin when he was young.
When young and all through his maturing life he has had to watch on as his mother went in and out of jail on drug related charges. It was embarrassing and humiliating and it could very easily have led him, in his words, to the drink.
But he had promised himself as a five-year-old that he would become a footy star and it was that pledge that saw him through the heartaches and disappointments.
As each year passed he steeled himself further and he learned much along the way about his culture which helped him.
When in camp with the Indigenous All-Stars, Aboriginal Elders came to the camp and Hynes grilled them, desperate to learn his past and to equip himself with knowledge of Indigenous people past and present.
It not only fascinated him, it fueled him as he grew into his Aboriginal skin, and he made a further commitment to become a spokesman and leader for his community.
Hynes is the spearhead and soul of the Cronulla Sharks
Hynes seen leaving court in May 2023 with his troubled mother Julie behind him
In 2022 Hynes won the most coveted title in the NRL Dally M Player Of The Year
Now that he has signed this massive contract with Cronulla, he intends to start a foundation For Indigenous youth. He sees his rise in notoriety as not just a platform for help but a mandatory thing to do.
‘It’s such an amazing culture to be a part of and I’m not scared to open up about it,’ he said.
‘I don’t care about the colour of my skin. All that matters is what’s inside me and in my heart and who I am as a person. I’m so proud to be an Aboriginal man and I’m trying to inspire the young kids like me who have got the fairer skin, to come out and be proud at a younger age than I was.’
From where he was as a preteen, right through to his rocky start in graded footy at Manly, all the while having his personal life punctuated by his mother’s situation, to where he is now, is pretty much the stuff of cinema.
He has overcome all the odds, survived and flourished through the hardships.
Being a foundation owner and a spokesman for the youth of his heritage now is a passion and a calling that appears to suit him very well.
‘Inspiring the next generation of Indigenous people, or just anyone in general, to know they can do it as well, well, I’m extremely grateful to be in the position I’m in.’