Cronulla and Indigenous All Stars five-eighth Nicho Hynes says his week in All Stars camp has been a life-changing experience in teaching him more about who he is.
Hynes was praised by All Stars teammates through the week for the manner in which he embraced everything in the camp.
"I've been pretty vocal that I wasn't aware of who I was before this camp and I can now safely say I know who I am: I'm a proud Wiradjuri and Darkinjung man," Hynes said.
"I'm going to speak up about my identity and be proud of it. I threw myself into all the dances and the cultural stuff. It's what you do in these sorts of weeks, you only get a short time so you may as well give it a go."
Tyrell Sloan is a try-scoring machine
As much as he would have preferred a win to the 16-10 loss, Hynes said the week in camp was much more important than the game itself.
"I still would have had that week without the game, I learned so much," Hynes added.
"We get taught in the camp to be proud of who we are. People question us and we can tell them we're Aboriginal men and we're proud of it.
"Someone like me who grew up not knowing a whole heap because I'm not as black as some of the boys, (people) question me and question 'how black are you?'
"It doesn't matter, if you're black you're black. You don't know my past and my family and where I come from so how dare you question it? We get taught to stick up for ourselves now and be proud of it."
Josh Addo-Carr speaks from the podium
Hynes gave special credit to All Stars captain and former Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr for helping him out every step of the way.
"I'm so happy for Foxxy; ever since I went down to the Storm he showed me the way," Hynes said.
"He cops a fair bit on social media and he stands up for who he is and for us black people. He has so much pride, he wears his heart on his sleeve and he told me that, not by telling me about it but by his actions. I love Foxxy, I'm so proud of him, he did this week so well.
"With Latrell (Mitchell) and Cody (Walker) out who are the leaders of the group usually, Foxxy did such a good job. He made up a song with the elders and I reckon that's going to kick off and build something special."
While the cultural significance of the week outweighed anything else, the match was also a big one for Hynes in pure footy terms. It was his first competitive hit-out as Cronulla five-eighth with Sharks spine players, fullback Will Kennedy and halfback Brayden Trindall, alongside him.
Hynes forces a dropout
Hynes had some terrific touches in the narrow loss, producing some high-quality kicks, laying on one try and forcing a drop-out.
"It's good to play some footy and I'll hopefully build on that with the Sharks for the rest of the season," Hynes said.
"I've been working hard in the pre-season this year to transition from fullback to the halves. It's something to build on now, I'll do some video on myself and hopefully build from that and go turn what I did wrong into rights at training and see how I go."