Nikorima not yet ready says Bennett
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has urged super-sub Kodi Nikorima to spend at least a further season at Brisbane and complete his first grade apprenticeship before entertaining big money offers from other NRL clubs lining up to lure him away.
The Broncos open Round 6 by hosting St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night with the Dragons having spent the week in Brisbane on the back of their 36-0 drubbing by the Cowboys last Saturday night.
James Roberts (hip flexor) and Jarrod Wallace (hamstring) were both given the all clear to take their place in the team for Brisbane although Roberts may need an injection into the affected area prior to kick-off.
Otherwise the team is the same that defeated the Titans on the Gold Coast last Friday night where Nikorima scored a brilliant try midway through the second half to stretch the Broncos' lead to 22-6.
A Test halfback with New Zealand over the off-season, Nikorima's 23 minutes against the Titans was down on his season average of 30.6 minutes per game but Bennett is adamant his long-term career will benefit from at least another season with the Broncos.
"It's not his time to leave yet," said Bennett, reiterating his desire to keep both Nikorima and Matt Gillett amid reports they have been targeted by the Dragons.
"If we can't find a place for him in 12 months or so then maybe it will be his time to leave but right now he's getting invaluable experience and growth in himself as a person and as a player and that will keep him in the game for the next decade.
"He has been good and one day he will be a starting player but different players, different roles in teams, different players that you're dealing with so he's just doing an apprenticeship at the moment," Bennett said.
"He's going to be a really good player in a year or two and that's the journey he's on right now.
"It's to be decided down the track where he might finish up playing but right now he is getting invaluable experience and time to be that good player that he can be.
"He's not being rushed. He's in a good team with a good culture so he's doing a lot of things right."
A fullback and half coming through the junior grades, Nikorima has started off the bench in all of his 25 NRL games to date and his younger brother Jayden joined the Roosters this year in recognition that the Broncos' 17 was going to be a tough team to crack.
It is Kodi's flexibility and ability to cover a number of positions that makes him such valued asset on the bench according to Bennett.
"They'll have to play multiple positions and play for long periods of time or short periods of time," Bennett said of the changing role of the 'super sub'.
"There are no guarantees with what you're going to need out there on match day so you've got to have some flexibility in your squad that you can handle that."
Coaching against the club he took to a premiership in 2010, Bennett is wary of a Dragons team that will be smarting from last week's disappointing showing against North Queensland and an attack that has yet failed to fire.
"They've had a couple of those bad losses but they've came back the next week and played pretty well," he said ahead of his 741st game as head coach.
"We've just got to be conscious of that and realise they're a quality footy team probably not playing with a lot of luck and maybe not playing as well as they want to play.
"They've got some really good players there so don't want them to gel [on Thursday] night if we can avoid it."