2008 Wallaby Rookie of the Year and QR Reds winger Peter Hynes is poised to play a leading role in the upcoming Super 14 season following two golden years.
Hynes, who won man-of-the-match honours in his international debut against Ireland, played all but one match of the Wallabies 2008 campaign, posting tries against France and New Zealand.
He now has the challenge of stepping into the giant shoes of fullback Chris Latham against the Force at Ballymore tomorrow night and possibly also in at least the early rounds of the Super 14.
In 2007 the speedster notched up his 50th match for the QR Reds and now enters the 2009 season as the team’s second-most experienced player (65 caps) behind 124-game veteran Sean Hardman.
“I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Hynes said of his year with Australia.
“If someone said ‘what would be your perfect year?’ that would pretty much be it. I came in with no one really expecting me to play all the games - and start them all - particularly. It’s one of those things I guess where it’s just a dream come true.
“But I’m looking at this stage that last year is over, it’s done and I’m looking to get better and play better for the Reds. If I do that then the Wallaby selection will take care of itself.
“(Robbie Deans) certainly helped my game tremendously and if I can bring a little of that back and help the younger guys at the Reds and the back three as well I think would be good.”
With a new found confidence following his impressive 2008, Hynes is now a leading figure in a backline that has a mix of precocious talent and international experience.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper, centre Berrick Barnes and fellow winger Digby Ioane all wore the green and gold throughout 2008, while Morgan Turinui was co-captain in 2005. Scrumhalf Ben Lucas also received representative honours last season after being selected for Australia A.
“There are some fantastic young players (at the Reds). Particularly guys like Ben Lucas, who had a really good year last year. Swapping from five-eighth to halfback was a big challenge for him, but he handled that really well. He was pretty close to going on the Spring Tour,” Hynes said.
“And then you have Quade (Cooper) who went on the Spring Tour and played exceptionally well, so we have guys like that running the show and Berrick Barnes leading the ship and steering us around.
“I think the outside backs particularly can feed off (the talent of the inside backs) a fair bit and hopefully get in there and make some line breaks and do what we have to do.”
Hynes, whose best finish to the Super 14 is 8th, will enter his seventh season determined to turn around the misfortunes of previous years.
“I’ve been here for a fair while now, so I want to see the Reds turn around to become the team they can be. That’s my goal, to see them become a leader in Super 14 Rugby.
“I think we’ve got a good squad. We’ve got a good pack of forwards and some really good backs. Training seems to be going really well and the patterns and all that stuff seem to be really good.”
Hynes’ experience will be invaluable to the squad in 2009, with the hard-hitting defender believing his time has come to play a leading role in the development of his younger counterparts.
“My goal is to just get out there and play as well as I can and help the guys in my position as much as I can at training and impart a little bit of knowledge I’ve learnt along the way and give that to them.
Reds coach Phil Mooney appreciates the role Hynes played during 2008, but will expect bigger things from his playmaker in 2009.