Nikorima ready to step up for Broncos
Brisbane Broncos utility Kodi Nikorima has put his hand up to fill the huge void left by Andrew McCullough after Brisbane's starting hooker suffered a hamstring injury in the Broncos' 30-8 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
McCullough will miss six weeks with a tear to his hamstring tendon, meaning that Brisbane will go into the State of Origin period without one of their more experienced heads, as well as up to seven players who are likely to be picked for their state.
It will be a massive test of the Broncos' depth, with the team one of only eight sides that will play in Round 12 without their representative stars, with their Friday night match against Wests Tigers taking place just days before Game One of the Holden State of Origin Series.
Journeyman Travis Waddell is expected to make his way into Brisbane's 17 this week, with the 26-year-old performing solidly this year for his Intrust Super Cup team Souths Logan.
It will be the third NRL side that Waddell has represented, with the hooker struggling to cement a starting position at both the Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders in years gone by.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has a tough choice to make as he ponders whether to move Nikorima into the starting hooker role, or start Waddell at hooker and leave Nikorima as an impact player off the bench – a role he has excelled in throughout his short career.
Nikorima has put the ball in Bennett's court, with the 22-year-old expressing his interest to be picked in Brisbane's run on side for Sunday's match against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"I will play wherever Wayne needs me. If it's starting next week, I'll be grateful for that opportunity," Nikorima said.
"If not, we have another great hooker in 'Travie' Waddell. I don't mind playing off the back of him as well. I'll do whatever is best for the team.
"I wouldn't rule out Waddell being picked. He is a born and bred hooker.
"Obviously I am a half learning to play nine. I'll just do whatever Wayne says."
Nikorima was quick to praise McCullough, with the New Zealand international having learnt so much playing under the 183-game Brisbane veteran throughout 2015 and 2016.
McCullough has not missed a game since 2014 and the Broncos will have to adapt quickly to life without their reliable hooker.
"Not having McCullough for these upcoming weeks will be a big loss," Nikorima said.
"He's been one of our most consistent players for the last couple of years. I guarantee you he will be missed next week if he's not there."