New Zealand coach Michael Maguire has given Rabbitohs star Kodi Nikorima permission to miss the opening match of the World Cup against Lebanon as he is getting married on the same day.
Family comes first for Nikorima and he aims to help South Sydney to a premiership before leaving to join the Dolphins after three years as a virtual nomad with fiancée Bree Tobler and children Zavi and Eli.
The Kiwis utility proposed to Bree on a picnic in the Southern Alps, near Queenstown, after Maguire gave him time off between Tests in 2019, but their wedding plans were put on hold due to the global pandemic.
“We were going to get married in 2020 but obviously COVID stuffed it up for us and we were thinking that the World Cup would have been last year, hence why we put it back two years until now,” Nikorima said.
“I have spoken to Madge about it and if I get picked he has given me the all clear that I can leave to get married. It is a long tour and he wants the best available players there so if I can do that I will obviously put my hand up.”
“Madge allowed me to break camp to go and propose, so it is funny how things work out.”
The 28-year-old made the mid-season switch to Souths with the aim of playing finals for the first time since 2018 and on the eve of Saturday’s grand final qualifier against Penrith he revealed that he had hoped to stay longer.
However, after taking his young family to Auckland in 2019 - and then to Tamworth to the Central Coast to the Gold Coast to Redcliffe - with the Warriors, the opportunity to return home to Brisbane with the Dolphins was too appealing.
“I was thinking that I wanted to stay here long term but moving to Redcliffe is based purely on family because I love this club so it wasn’t an easy decision,” said Nikorima, who co-captained the Māori All Stars earlier this year.
“My eldest son has moved around a lot at such a young age and when he got to go back to Brisbane during the [representative round] break that we had, he didn’t want to leave so that probably convinced me.”
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In the meantime, Nikorima has his sights on going one better than the 2015 grand final loss to the Cowboys in his debut season for the Broncos and is prepared to play any role Souths coach Jason Demetriou wants him to fill.
While he has played most of his career in the halves, including 15 Tests for New Zealand, Nikorima knew before joining Souths that Lachlan Ilias was first choice for the No.7 jersey.
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“I knew the spine was pretty set and I guess from watching them play last year I thought I could play a similar sort of role to Benji Marshall, just trying to cover wherever I was needed," he said.
“If someone goes down in the outside backs I just make sure that I know their role and just go out and play footy. In 2016 at the Broncos I was coming off the bench and if something happened to a winger or centre I would cover for them.
"It is exciting just playing with this team, it doesn’t matter how long I play as long as I do my job and we keep winning. What drove me to take up this opportunity was because I saw a chance to again play finals footy.
“To come here mid season and now be one win away from a GF, I’m excited."