Nikorima embracing the pressure of being Brisbane's No.7
Kodi Nikorima insists he is ready to embrace the challenge of being the Brisbane Broncos' first-choice halfback with assistant coach Kevin Walters back on board at the club.
The 23-year-old Kiwi international started at half in 15 games last season and the Broncos won 13 of those Telstra Premiership matches.
With Ben Hunt now at the Dragons he has the opportunity to cement a halfback position after being utilised in a utility role early on in his career.
Hunt said recently that there was always immense pressure on anyone who wears the number seven jersey at the Broncos, but Nikorima said that expectation went with the territory and he was not fazed by it.
When there was speculation last year about Brisbane going to the market with Hunt's departure, coach Wayne Bennett moved quickly to state publicly that Nikorima would be his halfback in 2018.
"Wayne has spoken to me about that and how he has confidence in me, and that has given me a lot of confidence out here on the training paddock and to deliver come the trial games," Nikorima told NRL.com at Broncos training on Monday.
"There is pressure, but there is pressure with whatever position you play in at Brisbane, so it is nothing new to me.
"It is a challenge I am looking forward to and something I've had my mind set on ever since the World Cup."
Nikorima had several outstanding games in the halves in 2017, including a five-game winning streak when Hunt was injured early on in the season, but said his best was yet to come.
"It was a learning curve for me last year, being my first time playing in the halves in first grade," he said.
"That is where I saw myself playing when I was coming through the juniors and to get that opportunity was special.
"I feel like there is a lot of improvement left in my game defensively and with my kicking game.
"In attack we need to fine tune what we did last year and go to another level."
Walters is playing a key role in that fine-tuning and Nikorima said he was thrilled the Broncos legend was back in the coaching ranks.
"With the attack he has brought some plays back and it is all up to us now to jump on board and execute it," he said.
"I was here in 2015 when Kevvie was here and he helped me out a lot then with my kicking game, just what kicks are required at different stages of a game
"One thing about Kevvie is that he is always smiling and he brings a lot of energy. His playing and coaching career speaks for itself and to have him back on board is awesome."
Nikorima has a long and close relationship with five-eighth Anthony Milford on and off the field which he said would helped the pair gel as the season progressed.
"Milf and I have played in the juniors together through the 14s and 15s in Queensland teams. He was the six and I was the seven, so I know his game inside out and vice versa," he said.
"I don't think he is back until round one, so he'll miss the trial games, but we have been close for a long time and we have been roomies together.
"He is a lot of fun and a bit cheeky, like myself. It is always good to be around the cheeky fellas, just like Kevvie and Alf (Allan Langer) when he is in (at training)."
Nikorima is back training with the full squad after having his appendix removed over the Christmas break.
"I was in Thailand and started to feel a bit sick," he said.
"I got back home and had all the symptoms for appendicitis so I had them taken out.
"This is my second session with the team and it is always exciting to be back with the boys after doing all the rehab stuff.
"I have been easing my way into it after the surgery I had to get my appendix taken out.
"It was a little bit of a shock but I have good staff here to look after me and they didn't just throw me straight back into it which was good."