Kodi Nikorima used to practise the Benji Marshall sidestep in the backyard and now he can’t wait to get one over one of his childhood idols.
When Nikorima and the Brisbane Broncos take on the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown on Friday night the halves battle will have a backstory beyond what happens on the field.
"When I was young I would watch Benji’s highlights, and then go and practise my sidestep out in the backyard with my brothers," Nikorima told NRL.com.
"I’d put cones out there and practise my footwork, and that was all thanks to Benji.
"I’m a proud Kiwi too and to see him come into the game the way he did really inspired me to want to play NRL."
Nikorima said he learned plenty about leadership and communication skills from Marshall when he was at the Broncos last year, facets of play he will be aiming to use against him on Friday.
"I am just fortunate I can call one of my idols a friend now," Nikorima said.
Plays of the Week Round 2
"It is an exciting game, coming up against Benji. He is one of my idols so I’ve got to be on. I am looking forward to the match-up.
"His leadership and his talk are what he brought to this team, and no doubt he is probably doing that for the Tigers as well."
Talk to New Zealand-born players in the Telstra Premiership and they will often describe in awe the impact Marshall made on them as youths and how he ignited a fire in their bellies to follow in his illustrious footsteps.
Nikorima is no different.
Marshall blazed a trail when he left New Zealand as a youth to try his hand at rugby league powerhouse Keebra Park High School, where he was a revelation.
"I think his path was harder than mine," Nikorima told NRL.com
"He came over with no family and I was fortunate enough that all my family came over with me so that transition was a bit easier for me.
"I talk to all my Polynesian and Kiwi mates who have come over by themselves and can be daunting to not have much family around.
"For Benji to come over and live with a family on the Gold Coast, and then showcase what he has in the NRL is just a tribute to the kind of freakish talent that he is.”
Nikorima was an 11-year-old when Marshall lit up the 2005 grand final.
"Yeah…that flick pass,” Nikorima enthused.
Match: Wests Tigers v Broncos
Round 3 -
Venue: Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
"I was going for the Tigers at the time when he created that and I was screaming at the TV going ‘wow, he’s a freak’."
The 23-year-old will put the awe aside on Friday night as he tangles with his former teammate and the best defensive team of the opening two rounds.
"No doubt Benji will be ready to play," Nikorima said.
"It is always like that when you come up against a former team, so we’ll have to be on, but we can’t put our energy into just Benji. We have to spread it out across their entire 17 because they have been playing really well."