Nikorima to realise a chilhood dream
As an 11-year-old Kodi Nikorima watched in awe as Benji Marshall produced arguably the greatest flick pass in grand final history to deliver the Wests Tigers a premiership victory.
Fast forward 12 years and the two Brisbane Broncos halves will line up together as they try and defeat a desperate Raiders side in Canberra on Saturday night.
Kodi was always a rugby league addict growing up in rugby union heartland, having many backyard battles with brother Jayden as they experienced childhood in northern New Zealand.
Jayden, currently at the Sydney Roosters, has since pledged his allegiance to Australia after moving to the country when he was a 10-year-old but Kodi – who moved across the ditch at the same time as his brother – could never leave his Kiwi heritage behind.
Those 12 years Kodi spent in New Zealand as a child were filled with dreams of donning the black of his country and one day following in Marshall's footsteps of representing his homeland at the highest level.
It paid off, with Kodi having now represented New Zealand on five occasions, emulating his idol Marshall who has run out for the Kiwis on 27 occasions.
Kodi now gets to start at club level with his childhood hero and he cannot wait for the occasion to lead the Broncos with Marshall by his side.
"Yeah [I'm excited]. Being a Kiwi, he was always one of my idols when I was growing up and he knows that," Nikorima said.
"It's a great opportunity to play in the halves with him. I'm very keen to play with one of my idols.
"We are making him feel young. He has a spring in his step since he came to the club.
"As much as he is an old head, he certainly doesn't show it out on the paddock."
Now comfortable around Marshall, it wasn't always that way for Kodi.
As any young fan feels when they meet their idol, there were nerves when Kodi first greeted Marshall following the veteran's arrival at the club in the pre-season.
Marshall soon made a memorable first impression, shouting Kodi lunch as the two bonded over their Kiwi ties.
"It's not weird anymore. I'm past that phase. I got it out of my system in the pre-season when he first came to the club," Kodi said of meeting Marshall.
"When he first came to the Broncos I was a bit nervous because he has always been my idol. I couldn't wait to see what he was like as a person.
"He's tremendous. He shouted me coffees and a feed straight up and I still look back at that now and think 'wow'. Hopefully there is a bit more of that to come."
There just may be, with coach Wayne Bennett signalling his intention earlier in the year to keep Marshall around for at least the 2018 season.
Marshall has been so impressive since arriving at the club that a contract extension is currently being negotiated, and with Anthony Milford and Kodi set to steer the ship in 2018, there will no better person for the two young halves to learn off.
Now guaranteed the No.7 jersey for 2018, Nikorima admitted that although he was relieved to hear the news, he is not getting ahead of himself.
"In a way it was a relief but obviously it is all up to Wayne going forward," he said.
"I'm not really too fazed on what's to come. I'm just thinking about what we are doing now [in this season]."