Nikorima lauds Roosters' leaders
After starting life as a first-grade footballer with five straight losses, Roosters youngster Jayden Nikorima has opened up to NRL.com about how he overcame what was a brutal initiation to the NRL.
Nikorima experienced the lows of a 32-point hiding in Round 1, the highs of scoring his first NRL try the following week, but then the deflating feeling of losing that game by a solitary point.
The next few weeks weren't much better, with the Tricolours losing another three games including two thrillers and a shellacking, before bouncing back to record their first victory of 2016 with a gritty win over arch-rivals the Rabbitohs in Round 6.
Nikorima admitted he was struggling to cope after the first few rounds, but said he was rescued by some of the older heads at the Roosters.
"For me, the first two weeks were a bit rough. I wasn't low on confidence, but I sort of didn't know when things were going to change," the 19-year-old told NRL.com.
"The senior players – as well as my older brother [Kodi] – were always there for me saying that things were going to change and that I just had to ride the wave because it's a long journey.
"All the senior members had a massive impact – I don't want to name anyone in particular – but they stood up and led from the front.
"I guess the first five weeks weren't ideal with us losing and all that. But it was good to get the monkey off the back [last week]. We sort of knew that the tables were going to turn for us; it was just a matter of when. Although it hasn't fully turned yet, we're on the right track to build our season."
The Junior Kangaroo began the year at five-eighth, but has started the last three games off the bench with Aiden Guerra playing the role of pivot in the early exchanges.
He said an open discussion with coach Trent Robinson made it easier to accept his new role in the side.
"Robbo sort of pulled me aside and said 'you'll be coming off the bench this week'," Nikorima said of his conversation with Robinson ahead of the Round 4 clash with the Sea Eagles.
"I'll do whatever is best for the team, so if that means coming off the bench or playing five-eighth then I'm comfortable. I sort of did that throughout the under-20s so I'm comfortable with doing that.
"I'm just trying to make an impact at the backend of the first half or the start of the second half against those tiring forwards."
Roosters skipper Jake Friend has been impressed by the way his young teammate has handled himself since being moved to the bench.
"I think Jayden being able to come in fresh and inject himself in the game when there are some tired boys on the field has been good," Friend said.
"His speed and footwork and that sort of stuff complements that sort of footy.
"I'm not sure if we're going to stick with that (Nikorima starting from the bench) or not, but for us, it's about the senior group getting the rest of the team up to go again this weekend and try to get a few wins on the trot."
Nikorima said he was "hopeful" of retaining his spot in the 17 when Mitchell Pearce returns in Round 9, but is mature enough to know he might have to go back to the Intrust Super Premiership with the Wyong Roos if necessary.
"I haven't really been told about the plans yet," the humble five-eighth said.
"I'll do whatever is best for the team. If that means playing for Wyong and biding my time then I'll do that."