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How five words from the Foxx helped Nicho shape his story

The sliding doors moment for Nicho Hynes came inside the locker room at AAMI Park, when five simple words from Josh Addo-Carr made him stop and think about who he was and where he was going. 

"If you're black, you're black," he said.

Hynes has emerged as one of the most influential Indigenous leaders in rugby league but if it wasn’t for his former teammate, the 27-year-old Wiradjuri man believes he may have never found his voice.

“When I went down to the Melbourne Storm, Josh sort of changed the way I looked at myself,” Hynes told

“It sounds funny to say that, but I was sitting next to him in my first top 30 locker room and was sort of a bit shy of who I was and being loud and proud.

“And he just said, 'Nicho, it doesn't matter how black your skin is or how white your skin is. If you're black, you're black, and you’ve got to represent, no matter what.”

Nicho Hynes in a special Indigenous Round photoshoot with NRL photographer Grant Trouville.
Nicho Hynes in a special Indigenous Round photoshoot with NRL photographer Grant Trouville. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

“I already looked up to Josh, but from that day on he became a really important role model for me.

“The way he explained that to me and how he’s such a proud man just made me feel so comfortable and feel like I could talk to him and be able to speak up about what I went through to become a proud Indigenous man."

In the years that have followed, the Dally M winner has become an important figure for fair-skinned Indigenous people after the realisation that his colour need not define how he expressed his culture.

Addo-Carr's words of wisdom are the ones Hynes wished he heard when he was discovering his Indigenous heritage as a teenager.

“I can't really thank Josh enough for having that conversation with me because now I've been proud and become a voice for the fairer skinned kids and people like me who, you know, got questioned a lot," Hynes said.

“I say that now to everyone, I use that line – that no matter how black you are, if you're black, you're black.

“There's so many kids and teenagers out there who have had their culture lost on them because of the stolen generation, because they've moved out of their community or had a white parent and a black parent.

“Sometimes it can get lost and they don't grow up in their culture and they don't grow up to learn and I was one of those kids.

“There's plenty of us out there and I just want to be a voice and show then that no matter what happens or whatever journey you walk in your life, your identity is who you are and your culture is who you are.

Sharks v Panthers: Round 12

“So be confident in who you are, go out and seek the help you need to find more and learn more.”

As Cronulla prepare to put a seven-game winning streak on the line against the three-time defending premiers, Saturday's clash between the ‘Kurranulla’ Sharks and ‘Darug’ Panthers is already full of storylines for Hynes.

The Blues-bound playmaker's mum Julie is painting an Aboriginal artwork to pass on to their opponents as part of the traditional Indigenous gift exchange.

Hynes proud to represent Indigenous culture

“She's a good artist in the Aboriginal space and she’s been working every day out the back of my house doing it so it’s been really nice to see her out the back and working hard on a project,” Hynes said.

“She’s been into it for a while and she’s doing a good job and getting better and better at it. Hopefully one day we can start up a little store for her or something – that would be cool.

“My mum gets excited for All Stars and Indigenous Round every year and we chat every week really about our culture but more so this week and it's just good to see that it brings families together, brings communities together."

Hynes’ story of his Indigenous discovery after his mum returned from jail with answers about their family history is well-known to the rugby league community. 

And despite the difficulty that can come with rehashing the past, Hynes said if there's a chance that someone out there might identify with parts of his journey, he will continue to be open and honest in the media.

“I do get worried that people hear my voice too much and hear my story too much but you just have to think about your younger self and what you went through," Hynes reflected.

"There’s so many people out there that might be going through something similar to what I did.

“When I was 14 years old and I had people questioning me about being Indigenous, I would have loved to have had someone being a voice for people like me and helping me along the way.

“I'm continually trying to evolve myself as a proud Indigenous man, learning more and feeling more comfortable each and every year and trying to be that voice.

“So that's exactly why I do what I do.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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