NRL: How New Zealand Warriors half Kodi Nikorima needs to take the next step in his career

Kodi Nikorima has secured his immediate Warriors future – now he is playing for his next NRL contact.

Last week the Warriors half took up his option for 2022, recommitting to the Mt Smart club through next season.

But by the end of this year Nikorima and his management team will start negotiating his next deal, which will ideally be a long-term one, as he turns 28 next April.

His versatility, along with different coaches’ opinions, has meant Nikorima didn’t settle into a permanent halves role until relatively late in his career, but he should be coming into his prime now.

So how far can he go?

At times this season Nikorima has been sublime, with the first half against the Cowboys last week another fine example, but it’s what comes in between that leaves some lingering questions.

The Kiwis halfback has all the tools at his disposal to be an elite playmaker, with vision, searing pace, footwork, ball skills and a varied kicking game.

At times it feels like he is ready to step into the top echelon of NRL halves and the only thing holding him back is consistency.

That’s what the Warriors hierarchy will need to see over the next few months, starting with Sunday’s clash with Manly, to be convinced that Nikorima can help transform them into a regular finals team.

The pre-season pursuit of the Storm’s Jahrome Hughes showed that the Warriors were still hedging their bets in the halves, but every positive performance from Nikorima will lessen the need to look outside.

Nikorima hasn’t been helped by a rotating cast in 2021, with Chanel Harris-Tavita, Sean O’Sullivan, Bayley Sironen and Reece Walsh his halves partners across the first third of the season.

“It is obviously not ideal when the spine chops and changes but I’ve learnt over time it is something you have to deal with,” said Nikorima. “As an experienced player more of the pressure and everything falls back on my shoulders and I’m enjoying that.”

With the impending return of Harris-Tavita, the emergence of Walsh and a couple of steady displays from O’Sullivan, the Warriors have halves options, though there is no doubting the senior man.

“I played that role the back end of last year, especially when Greenie [Blake Green] left,” said Nikorima. “I don’t see it as anything [special], I just want to go there and play my game. It doesn’t really matter who’s inside me because I have every trust in whoever steps in to fill the role.”

Halves are often dependent on the foundation in front of them, and Nikorima is behind probably the most effective pack across his time at the Warriors.

“Obviously playing off the back of my forwards that I have here is only going to benefit me,” said Nikorima. “They attract so many bodies which means there is going to be an overlap somewhere.”

Nikorima’s impressive goal kicking this year has revealed another string to his bow. He wasn’t used in that area across four seasons at the Broncos and was seen as a backup behind Harris-Tavita and Patrick Herbert over the last two Warriors seasons.

But he has blossomed off the tee in 2021, with just four misses from 28 attempts and a success rate (85.7 per cent) only bettered by Raiders’ sharpshooter Jarrod Croker.

The Warriors have scored a lot of tries handy to the posts but Nikorima looks confident from anywhere and his accuracy was the difference in recent wins over the Dragons and Cowboys.

He admits his last stint as a regular kicker was “probably back in my junior days” but he has always enjoyed the challenge.

“At the Broncos they had Jamayne [Isaako], so I didn’t need to do any goal kicking. Obviously just putting in the work out at training and having Daryl Halligan has helped me out a lot this year.

“It’s just making sure, whatever I do, whenever I kick, whether it’s under fatigue, I just stick to my process and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

Source: Read Full Article