Nikorima looks back on Melbourne Storm snub
TWELVE months ago Kodi Nikorima knocked back more money and a clear path to the scrumbase of NRL superpowers Melbourne, and now the Broncos everywhere man is out to KO the Storm's latest premiership charge.
Nikorima is set to shift back to the No.7 jumper in Friday's grand final qualifier in the southern capital, with Brisbane veteran Benji Marshall endorsing the youngster to oppose Cooper Cronk.
Midway through 2016 the Storm made Nikorima a handsome offer to partner Cronk in the halves this season, tabling a pay packet the Broncos couldn't match and a starting spot they couldn't guarantee.
With 2015 grand final playmakers Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt seemingly entrenched at Red Hill, Nikorima seriously considered a shift south before taking up a one-year extension with the club he first joined as a 12-year-old.
Wayne Bennett has since dubbed Nikorima his first-choice halfback to succeed Hunt in 2018.
The five-time Kiwi international's decision to stay put has since paid off in spades, though he admits the chance to learn from Storm icons Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk held serious sway.
"They're like the Broncs," Nikorima said of Melbourne's pursuit last year.
"They're a big club and they've got a good culture down there. For myself It's good knowing that them and other clubs were interested, but I love this club here.
"They're a family club and I wanted to give Brisbane every opportunity to keep me here and this has paid out.
Asked about knocking back the chance to be mentored by Smith, Cronk and Craig Bellamy, Nikorima said: "Obviously I thought about that but that's all in the past now.
"I've made a decision and moved on from that. I'm very happy to be here with the class players here.
"Benny Hunt, Andrew McCullough, they're the future of the game here and obviously Milford as well."
Nikorima is very much seen as the future of the Broncos, with his 11 wins from 12 games in the No.7 jumper earning him a healthy contract upgrade through to the end of 2020.
While Hunt once loomed as Nikorima's biggest roadblock to the maroon and gold jersey made famous by Allan Langer, ironically Hunt's own big money shift to the Dragons, followed by a mid-season hamstring tear, gave Nikorima his crack as a starting half.
He denies a move to Melbourne would have seen him pencilled into the Storm's halves from the outset.
But Nikorima admits Hunt's injury frustrations helped fast track his own rise to a run-on role.
"Any club you go to you've got work for it (a starting role). And like here I've got to work for it," Nikorima said.
"Coming off a (season-ending shoulder) injury last year my main goal was to push and be in the 17. It took a couple of rounds there before I got a crack.
"When Ben Hunt got injured, knowing he was leaving, I said to myself 'if I really want this I've got to show it now. It's now or never'.
"I thought I've done that at times (proved himself), but for me I've got to keep improving and obviously I see myself as a future half and that's what I'm going to keep doing."
Nikorima's form in 2017 has seen Marshall dub him the best halfback option against Melbourne, despite Darren Lockyer pushing for the 32-year-old to remain in the halves when Darius Boyd returns from injury.
"If Darius comes back hopefully I am on the bench, I think I have been a little inconsistent the last couple of weeks," Marshall said ahead of Tuesday's team announcement.
"If Darius is fit I think Kodi has deserved his opportunity at halfback.
"I have been playing my bench role for most of the season, that's how I see it."