The first time halfback Nicho Haynes ran out for Cronulla on the club’s home ground he kicked a conversion to sink Parramatta by two points after the siren.
After the win, Hynes revealed he had made his debut at Shark Park with the ashes of one of his closest mates strapped on his wrist, along with the word ‘Murph’ written with a felt-tip marker.
What Hynes did not disclose was that Luke Matthew Murphy, his friend since childhood, had died of a heroin overdose in the footballer’s mother’s home ten months earlier.
Murphy had accidentally inhaled the drug on May 25, 2021, while using a hydraulic press to package bricks of heroin in Julie Hynes’s bathroom on the New South Wales Central Coast.
Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes played his first home game for the Sharks with the name of his mate Luke Murphy on his wristband (circled), as well as some of his ashes. Murphy died of a heroin overdose in Hynes’s mother Julie’s house on the NSW Central Coast
Hynes wrote ‘Murph’ on his wrist (above) in a tribute to Luke Murphy at a Sharks v Eels game in March last year, 10 months after the 29-year-old died after being exposed to heroin while using a hydraulic press to package the drug in Julie Hynes’s home
Hynes was found guilty on Thursday afternoon of knowingly taking part in the supply of a prohibited substance.
Her former friend Michael William Selvage, 59, was found not guilty of the same charge. A jury of seven women and five men had deliberated for less than a day.
Hynes, who has previous criminal convictions and has spent time in prison, was taken into custody and will be sentenced in May.
She was jailed for two years and eight months with a non-parole term of 16 months in May 2007 and a year with a minimum term of six months in November 2004, both times for drug supply.
The Crown case was that Hynes’s home at Blackwall was being used by her, Selvage and Murphy to cut bricks of heroin with glucose before they were pressed and packaged for sale.
Luke Murphy grew up with Nicho Hynes and the footballer considered him like a brother. Murphy (above) could come and go from the Hynes family home as he pleased. Nicho’s mother Julie told police she found Murphy unconscious on her couch on May 25, 2021
Selvage and Hynes denied any involvement in the operation and no bricks of heroin were ever located but 180 grams of the drug were found in the house.
Hynes said she found Murphy unconscious on her couch about 1.50pm. He was wearing denim shorts, no shirt and was covered in white powder.
She called Triple Zero at 1.19pm and paramedics arrived at 1.34pm but Murphy was pronounced dead at 1.55pm. Neither she nor Selvage was accused of any offence in relation to the death of Murphy, which occurred the day before she turned 49.
Nicho Hynes was never mentioned in evidence, even tangentially, and his lifelong friendship with Murphy could not be reported until now.
The 26-year-old came to court to support his mother on the trial’s third day but was not allowed to sit in the public gallery as his presence might distract or influence the jury.
For 20 months the charges against his mother did not received any media coverage but the footballer acknowledged his mate’s death at least twice, albeit without mentioning the circumstances.
Julie Hynes (above) was charged with knowingly taking part in the supply of a prohibited drug after Luke Murphy died of an accidental overdoes in her home. She denied knowing Murphy had been using a press in her bathroom to compact heroin into bricks for sale
Two days after Murphy’s fatal overdose Nicho helped his then club Melbourne beat Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in the first match of the NRL’s Indigenous Round.
‘Another amazing experience representing my family and culture,’ Nicho wrote on Instagram.
‘Was also a night to honour a brother who was taken from us a day before the game. I hope I done you proud. Rest In Peace Murph.’
Nicho again made clear how much Murphy meant to the Hynes family last year after that 18-16 win over the Eels in the second round of the NRL premiership on March 19.
‘I got me family and all me best mates here, and a good mate of mine’s [ashes] on my wrist,’ he told the ABC at the time.
‘He grew up with me… he passed away last year, and I’m just so pleased we got the win for him.’
Nicho Hynes took his mother to last year’s Dally M Awards (above) where he was named the game’s best player. Few in the audience knew she was awaiting trial for drug supply
Nicho paid tribute to his dead friend Luke Murphy after his then team Melbourne played Brisbane in last year’s Indigenous round. ‘Rest in Peace Murph’, he wrote on Instagram on May 29. The mother of Murphy’s child responded ‘You made Luke so proud’
In another interview Hynes said: ‘I have a good mate of mine written on my wrists. That was dedicated to him.
‘He was a massive Sharks fan. I wish he was here to celebrate with us. He grew up with me. He lived with us and was pretty much my brother.’
Six months later Nicho took his mother as his date to the Dally M Awards when he won the game’s highest individual honour with a record number of votes.
Unknown to almost anyone in the audience at Randwick Racecourse that evening his mother was on bail, reporting three days a week to Woy Woy police station.
Nicho said he could not even look at his mother as she cried during his acceptance speech or he would start weeping as well.
‘I almost had a little tear come down,’ he told Nine. ‘We’ve been through a hell of a lot.’
Nicho Hynes (left) and his half-brother Wade (right) grew up with Luke Murphy and all went to the same school. Their mother Julie (centre) treated Murphy like another son
‘Mum’s had a tougher life and just to bring her and see her smile all night – she actually said to me, “Who are you taking to the Dally Ms?”
‘And I said, “Nobody, the only person I’d take is you, and you don’t really like this stuff.” She doesn’t really like the cameras and being front and centre of everything.’
Julie Hynes was front and centre at Gosford District Court for more than a week and had to watch herself in body-worn camera footage taken the day Murphy died.
She had clearly been distressed when she spoke to police after the father-of-one’s death but little detail about their relationship was explained to the jury.
All the seven women and five men heard from Hynes was that she had known Murphy for about 20 years – in her words, ‘since primary’ school.
Hynes’s older son Wade, who has a different father to Nicho, fleshed out the closeness of his family’s bond with Murphy as the Crown’s last witness in the trial.
Julie Hynes kept memorabilia featuring her son Nicho’s football career on the wall of her loungeroom. A Melbourne Storm poster is circled as well as a part from a hydraulic press
Wade, now 30, was nearer in age to Murphy than Nicho was, and all three went to Brisbane Water Secondary College.
The older Hynes brother first met Murphy through the Umina Bunnies – one of Nicho’s junior clubs – and they continued to play rugby league through their childhoods.
‘We played football together in under sixes,’ Wade said in evidence. ‘Luke was like a brother to me.’
Julie Hynes soon got to know Murphy through her sons.
‘She was like a mum to Luke as well,’ Wade Hynes told the court. ‘He was like a family member to us.’
Julie Hynes and Nicho’s father Mick Wilson split when he was two and his stepfather was later killed in a truck accident. Between ages five and 12, he lived with Wilson while his mother was in and out of jail.
Hynes offered no explanation for the 180cm tall, 250kg press – painted bright red – standing next to the toilet in her bathroom. She denied knowing it was being used to compact drugs
When Julie emerged from prison for the last time Nicho learnt her father had been Indigenous and he began to embrace his Aboriginal heritage.
He was signed by Melbourne in 2019 from the Mackay Cutters where he spent two years working as a teacher’s aide while playing Queensland Cup.
Hynes, who credits both his parents for his success, has since become one of the NRL’s biggest names and is considered a role model.
‘I wouldn’t change any of my experiences for the world,’ he told the Daily Telegraph last May. ‘That’s made me who I am.
‘I wouldn’t have changed mum going in and out of jail, I still love her to death and everything I do is for her.’
One prominent rugby league commentator who knows Nicho well confirmed the popular opinion of him within the game as a ‘champion bloke’.
‘Nicho is one of the most beautiful blokes you would ever meet,’ he said.
Another prominent NRL figure told Daily Mail Australia: ‘He genuinely works hard to be the best player and person he can. He had a few challenges growing up.’
The Hynes family remained so close to Luke Murphy that Wade believed he had his own key to Julie’s house, or at least knew where the spare one was kept.
‘He’d just come and go as he pleased,’ Wade said. ‘He’d just stay whenever he felt like it.’
Wade Hynes told the court he arrived at his mother’s house after Luke Murphy had died. His mother did not tell him what happened inside the house. Mother and son are pictured above
Wade, a father-of-two, was called by a neighbour to his mother’s house on the day of Murphy’s death about five minutes after paramedics gave up performing CPR.
He learnt Murphy was dead only after arriving at the house.
‘The only thing I recall is mum saying Luke had passed away,’ he told police in a statement. ‘Mum never said why or what Luke had been doing.’
In evidence, Wade said he had not pushed for further detail at any point: ‘She was distraught. I was worried about her.’
Questioned whether he had ever asked his mother since that day what happened in the hours before Murphy died on her lounge room floor, Wade answered ‘No’.