Queensland coach Kevin Walters, who has returned to the Broncos’ coaching staff with a big part of his role to mentor Wayne Bennett’s halves, liked what he saw from Kodi Nikorima in his first steps to cement a permanent dominating halfback role with the Brisbane outfit.
This time four years ago Kodi and Jayden Nikorima were the hottest young players in Queensland, after dominating at under-20s level.
The youngest, Jayden 21, is threatening to be an unfulfilled talent after being dumped by the Roosters but despite being a Kiwi international Kodi, two months off his 24th birthday, still hasn’t made the step into the top shelf NRL level that was predicted for him.
Yet Walters says he is showing the attitude needed to become a prominent long-time Broncos leader.
Nikorima put in a first-class effort to start 2018 against an inexperienced Gold Coast Titans in Toowoomba tonight which, says Walters, was an offshoot of a relentless desire to listen and learn in the pre-season.
Always known for his determined running, Nikorima looked dominant in a more match-controlling role, playing a part in two early Broncos tries, kicking strongly and defending solidly, in an impressive to start a year in which much is expected of him after the departure of Ben Hunt.
“He was very good,” said Walters, with a preface that this was just a trial match against the Titans B-team.
“He has been working really hard on his organisational skills. We know he can run the ball well and he defended particularly was good tonight. But it was game one in a long season.
“What I like about him is he wants to get better and he is particularly working hard on his game to get better and that’s what is exciting for Kodi and all the players who are going to play with him.”
Nikorima, more a utility man last season before Hunt was moved to hooker, admits that training all pre-season as a specialist halfback has given him new confidence, but the criticism he has received in the past two seasons is also a driving force.
“I am more confident; it helps when you have a pre-season to prepare properly in the one position,” he said.
“One thing I said I needed to work on was my talk and game management and I felt I did that tonight.
“I have been working hard on my kicking game and we are doing extras before every training session.
“There are always critics and doubters and that's what drives me every day.
“There is always pressure, especially when you put on that Broncos jersey. It's no different this year.”