Hunt: Nikorima ready for bomb barrage
He is stepping into the sizeable shoes of the incumbent Australian fullback and Broncos skipper but Kodi Nikorima will be ready for whatever the Roosters can throw at him on Friday night according to teammate Ben Hunt.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Hunt speaks of the disappointment of being without the talismanic Darius Boyd for week one of the finals but moved to allay any fears that Nikorima's small stature will be exposed under the high ball.
A regular at the back during his time with the Brisbane under-20s, Nikorima's only NRL start at fullback came in Round 20 where he scored a try in the 42-12 win over the Bulldogs and he filled in there last week when Boyd failed to return for the second half due to his hamstring injury.
The Broncos have lost just one out of 13 games this season when Nikorima has been in the starting team and after extensive practise catching high balls at training on Sunday and Tuesday Hunt believes he will be up to the task on Friday night.
"There has been a lot of talk that Kodi will get bombarded with high balls this weekend, but I’ve got full confidence that he can handle whatever the Roosters throw at him," Hunt says in Big League this week.
"I know he’s been practising really hard under the high ball.
"We expect them to kick to him, so we’ll be doing our best to get pressure on the kickers and do anything we can to help him out.
"Losing Darius Boyd this week is a huge blow. He’s our captain, he gets everyone going and he’s played a lot of big games in his career. Darius plays with a lot of passion and he makes the people around him want to play harder. Not having his experience is a really big loss for us.
"While losing Darius is disappointing, I’m excited to see what this new-look spine can produce against the Roosters.
"When you look at Kodi Nikorima, Anthony Milford and Benji Marshall, they bring so much excitement in attack.
"Each of them can light up a game, so if they gel well together it’s going to be exciting."
The loss of Boyd on top of the absence of hooker Andrew McCullough has necessitated a reshuffle of the Broncos' key playmaking positions late in the season but other than a stumble against the Eels they have maintained their winning momentum.
With Nikorima shifting to fullback Benji Marshall has been recalled to start at halfback for the first time since Round 26 last year with the Dragons, Hunt grateful to have such a player to call upon at this time of the season.
"It’s such a massive luxury for this club that we’re able to plug Benji Marshall into the halves this weekend," says Hunt.
"He’s brought a real calm and energetic presence to training and the club as a whole.
"Benji is one of the most positive guys I’ve ever been around. It’s been amazing to see what he’s done here.
"He hasn’t played a lot of football, but behind the scenes he has been remarkable for our team."
The Finals Week One issue of Big League profiles all the teams lining up for finals footy including the Roosters' climb from the basement to the penthouse in one year, why a lack of potency doesn't worry Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, how a lack of finals experience won't impact the Eels and the top eight finals runs in premiership history. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.