Test half headed back to the bench
He may have returned to Broncos training as an incumbent Test halfback but utility Kodi Nikorima knows he is headed back to the bench in preparation for the 2016 season.
With Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran both unavailable for the Kiwis' tour of England last November New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney entrusted the No.7 jersey to brilliant Warriors youngster Tuimoala Lolohea for the first Test before handing the responsibility to Nikorima for the final two Tests of the series.
No player of a tier one nation played more Tests at halfback than Nikorima did in 2015 but given the superb displays of Brisbane halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford last year Nikorima knows that for the meantime his best hope of cracking the Broncos 17 is a spot on Wayne Bennett's bench.
With the ability to play hooker, halfback or fullback, the 21-year-old shapes as a key weapon for Brisbane in the new era of eight interchanges and says he has no grand designs on unseating either Hunt or Milford... yet.
"I don't see myself as a Shaun Johnson or a Kieran Foran as yet but hopefully work my way up there in the future," Nikorima told NRL.com.
"I guess I got lucky in a way with no Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran not being there. 'Mooksy' (Kearney) had to look elsewhere and I didn't get the nod at the start but he gave me an opportunity in the last two games and I'm thankful for that.
"Our halves did a fantastic job last year and it was their first time together so I know they can go to another level and I'm hoping they do this year."
Apart from a couple of short stints at hooker coming through the junior ranks, Nikorima's debut season in the NRL last year was also the first time he had been used extensively out of dummy-half.
With a history of playing predominantly in the halves and at fullback Nikorima's blistering speed made him a dangerous proposition in the final quarter of games, coming up with 14 tackle-breaks, five line breaks and two try assists despite limited minutes.
He came up with a crucial play 15 minutes from full-time that took the Broncos a long way towards victory in their Week One finals clash with the Cowboys but says there is still much to the hooking role that he has to develop further to remain an NRL regular.
"I'll approach it the same like I did last year. Every position is up for grabs so I'm hoping to grab a bench spot again and just go from there," he said.
"It's a lot different to the halves and fullback role. There's a lot of fitness involved, you're always on the ball and you've got to talk more and talk to your forwards.
"Having forwards like 'Blairy' (Adam Blair), 'Cozza' (Corey Parker) and Sammy [Thaiday] that talk to you, it just makes your job easier.
"I'm still doing extras on my hooking, my passing and practising my kicking, the same as last year but hoping to take it to another level this year."