Nikorima out of his shell after wise words from 'Madge'
Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima has credited New Zealand coach Michael Maguire for giving him the belief that he can be one of the game's leading halves in the wake of his best performance of the year.
Nikorima was on song in Friday night's 50-18 demolition of Penrith at Suncorp Stadium, crossing for two tries and clocking 152 metres from nine runs.
Throw in two try assists, 14 crucial tackles on the Broncos' right edge and the improved control he displayed with his kicking game and it was a night to remember for the 24-year-old half.
After the victory Nikorima, who played half for the Kiwis against England in the Denver Test, said he felt as though the number seven jersey was his now after he'd got a lot out of the short tour to the United States under Maguire.
"I feel like I am starting to come into my own now and I want to make it my own," he said.
"To be honest going into the Kiwis [Test] Madge [Maguire] helped me out a lot leadership-wise. He put it all on me and I thought I definitely came out of my shell there and I am starting to bring what I learned from him on that little tour back to the Broncs.
"He just said to me that I have got the qualities of [Cooper] Cronk. He's worked with those players and to have someone of his calibre, who has won premierships and done it all, have that confidence in me really helped me.
"Wayne [Bennett] believes in me too, but to hear it from another coach gave me extra confidence and extra motivation."
Nikorima said he had never doubted himself but had come out of his shell more as he warmed to the task of being a regular halfback.
"I am starting to talk more too," he said.
"I was a bit quiet coming into the season and didn't really take it with two hands, and that showed with me getting benched earlier in the year after I got injured."
The Broncos forwards were on song against the Panthers and Nikorima and five-eighth Anthony Milford played off the back of that. The Kiwi international said that was all well and good, but added there was still improvement in the duo.
"For me and Milf it is about learning to control a game when we are not dominating," he said.
"That is where we have probably lacked a little bit but I have every confidence in myself and Milf to get over that."
The best halves in the NRL are linking together rather than staying on the same side of the field and the Milford/Nikorima partnership is growing in that area on the back of plenty of work with assistant coach Jason Demetriou.
"JD had a plan and that was getting me and Milf on the ball earlier, and he encourages us to work together so we don't just stick to our sides, just like the way Shaun [Johnson] and Blake Green do it," Nikorima said.
Nikorima explained his two intercepts did not come by chance after Bennett had instructed him to get up quickly on Viliame Kikau and deny him time and space.
"He is one of the best left edge back-rowers in the game and the key with stopping those blokes is getting line speed," he said.
"If you let them run they will do some damage so that was my plan all night to get good line speed. I was up in [his] face and got two intercepts, which was nice."
Nikorima said the defensive focus the players took in to the Panthers game, after being poor in the 26-6 loss to the Warriors, would once again be vital against the Cronulla Sharks on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.