Bennett: Nikorima no certainty next week
Despite a starring role against the Bulldogs on Thursday night Broncos coach Wayne Bennett says Kodi Nikorima is no guarantee of being in the 17 next week as Brisbane prepare to welcome Darius Boyd back from injury.
Thrust into a fullback position that he has played sparingly since his days in the under-20s, Nikorima celebrated the three-year contract he signed earlier in the week with a dynamic performance at the back.
The 23-year-old's speed and a tiring Bulldogs defence saw him score a crucial try midway through the second half and his energetic kick returns caused issues for Canterbury's kick-chase team all night, running for 140 metres with five tackle breaks in the 42-12 win that catapulted his team into second position on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
But with the return of Boyd, a man-of-the-match display from Andrew McCullough and a re-settled halves pairing of Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford, Nikorima is unlikely to figure in the run-on side in the short term, Bennett not even able to guarantee him a place on the bench.
"I don't know that," Bennett said when asked whether Nikorima would be in the 17 against Parramatta next Friday night.
"I don't know what the 17 will be next week so I can't answer that."
Brisbane have lost just two of the 10 games in which Nikorima has played this season and while non-committal about fitting in someone that can play in the halves, at hooker or fullback in the weeks to come, Bennett did praise the way Nikorima and others have stepped into the breach when key players such as Boyd and Milford have suffered injuries this season.
"We've had a lot of injuries this year in key positions but everyone keeps putting their hand up," Bennett said.
"Kodi was wonderful there tonight so that's all I can ask of them and they've all responded to that.
"It's not something that's worrying us too much if we've got a couple of injuries now because someone else is putting their hand up for us."
One player who is a certainty to be there against the Eels next week is hooker McCullough, who took his season try assist tally to five with two key involvements to go with his customary 32 tackles and 78 run metres.
It was McCullough's 30-metre bust that led to Brisbane's first try through Tautau Moga while his kick for Josh McGuire to score in the 62nd minute signalled the beginning of the end for the Bulldogs.
"He got the players' player and he deserved it," Bennett said. "He turns up every week. Some weeks are better than others.
"[Being in Queensland Origin camp] could have given him a bit of confidence. You can't be hanging around Cameron Smith and not learn something.
"He'd get a bit of confidence out of that."
Broncos captain Adam Blair described McCullough as an inspiration for the way he puts his body on the line each and every week for his team.
"For a small guy he gets stuck into those big boys and you get a lot of confidence off a guy that size that can get out there and put some tackles on the big boys, especially when they keep coming all day and he keeps turning up," Blair said.
"It's inspirational for us."