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Christmas rehab sessions tell tale of Nikora's rise

Briton Nikora up and left it all on the Gold Coast to pursue a crack at first grade, so dragging himself down to a lonely park on Christmas morning for rehab was no big thing for Cronulla's next big thing.

Nikora has set tongues wagging just two games into his top-flight career, scything through the Titans – who didn't see a rugby league future in him as a teen – with a sublime angled run for his first NRL try.

The 21-year-old Kiwi never thought his chance with the Sharks would come so soon after tearing ligaments in his knee before Christmas.

That Nikora didn't hesitate when star front-rower Andrew Fifita suggested extra rehab in the early hours of December 25 says plenty about why he has landed on the right edge where Luke Lewis terrorised opponents both with and without the ball for years.

"He did his knee and came through rehab with me, he's one of the blokes who would be there for you," Fifita said.

"I can't speak highly enough. Christmas Day I called him and said 'rehab training at 7 in the morning so I can get back and watch the kids open their presents from Santa'. The only message I got back was 'sweet, I'll see you then'.

Sharks backrower Briton Nikora.
Sharks backrower Briton Nikora. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"We had two weeks off over Christmas and we trained most of the time. Just to get back, stay on top of things and get back into the squad.

"He dug deep and now he's playing round one, round two and I'm pretty sure he got man of the match for us on the weekend."

Nikora has long been rated highly in The Shire, keeping pace with blue-chip juniors Kyle Flanagan, Bronson Xerri and the Brailey brothers since joining the Sharks in 2016.

Raised on the Gold Coast after leaving New Zealand aged nine, the Titans passed him over when he graduated from famed rugby league nursery Keebra Park.

They weren't alone. No manager had picked him up at that point either, so Nikora flew down to Sydney to try his hand at a couple of open trials and ended up with a two-year deal at Cronulla.

Four years on and he's trudging up and down a local park with Fifita and not another soul in sight on Christmas morning.

Cronulla's senior men have taken a keen interest in Nikora for a reason. Shaun Johnson is tipping up Michael Maguire with future Kiwi honours in mind.

Meanwhile injured skipper Wade Graham and Lewis are clueing him up on the finer points of second-row play, having kept his NRL rise on ice until now.

Sharks prop Andrew Fifita.
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

"Everyone's helped me out bit by bit, especially Wade and Lewy," Nikora said.

"They tell me all the little things I need to work on, the one-percenters.

"I don't think it's always a bad thing [biding time behind Graham and Lewis]. Yeah I want to play but it builds me up. I learn from them, take away all the little things so that when I do get the opportunity I can stay there, not be half-hearted. It gets me ready."

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