‘It’s mainly on myself’: Warriors playmaker Kodi Nikorima and his search for consistency as an NRL half

If the Warriors are to prosper over the remainder of the NRL season, much rests on the shoulders of Kodi Nikorima.

While the forwards provide the platform and there is always focus on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, as the senior half Nikorima is the main conductor.

He’s also become something of a barometer, a little bit like Shaun Johnson used to be. When he plays well the team goes well, but when he is less involved or off his game, there is a flow-on effect.

The Dragons game this Sunday brings back memories of Nikorima’s impressive Warriors debut against the same opposition in 2019.

He coped well with the pressure, and the unusual situation of returning to Suncorp Stadium so soon after he had left, with a strong performance.

Almost two years on, Nikorima is yet to fully stamp his mark as an elite half at the Warriors.

He was good last year, in probably his career-best season, especially after being used as an interchange hooker in the first two games.

Nikorima contributed 18 try assists, five line breaks and three tries, as well as putting his teammates into gaps on 20 occasions.

In 2021 Nikorima needs to lift another notch. There were early promising signs, with solid performances against the Titans and Knights, followed by a virtuoso display in Canberra. But he struggled behind a well-beaten pack against the Roosters, then was quiet in last week’s 13-12 loss to Manly.

There is no doubt about his abilities, with a superb running game, soft hands and an all-round kicking arsenal but he is yet to achieve the consistency of other top halves.

His versatility hasn’t helped, with his 127 NRL games being split between interchange hooker (47), halfback (41), five eighth (34) and fullback (two).

“He’s played lots of different positions,” said Warriors coach Nathan Brown. “Last year, between Mooks [Stephen Kearney] and Toddy [Todd Payten], they were probably the first coaches that have left him in one position. He started to develop some consistency and that played a fair part. He is more mature now and probably feels he belongs a bit more as well.”

Brown admits the changing combinations haven’t helped, with the loss of Chanel Harris-Tavita and the constant switches of edge personnel, but his requirements for Nikorima are simple.

“Kodi is an elite type of player at his best,” said Brown. “To do that he needs get the ball in his hands more and put himself in more positions to get the ball.

“That’s what we are asking him to do, because the better players and the most influential players obviously touch the ball a lot more than the ones that aren’t.”

In his seventh first grade season, Nikorima remains refreshingly honest in assessing his form in 2021.

“I’ve been alright,” said Nikorima. “There is a lot of room for improvement.

“Obviously when you go based off results, the spine or the halves are usually the ones that tend to cop it the most and there’s a couple of games that could have [gone] our way.”

Rather than being isolated to one side of the field, Nikorima has been granted a roving role by Brown, able to insert himself where he sees fit.

“He has given me that free range where I can play both sides of the ball and it’s up to me to actually do it in the games,” said Nikorima.

The Raiders match involved some freakish circumstances, but also provided a template of what is possible when the 27-year-old is in flow. That kind of display isn’t possible every week, but Nikorima knows the recipe for more consistency.

“It’s just mainly on myself, just trying to apply myself,” said Nikorima. “In that Canberra game I really wanted to get the ball. I was more demanding compared to the last two games after that.

“[Against] the Roosters I was trying to wait for go forward instead of just trying to put myself in better positions and help my teammates.”

Like any half, Nikorima has been affected by the loss of marquee prop Addin Fonua-Blake, which has changed the dynamic for the team.

“In the first couple of rounds with our forward pack we [were] pretty dominant through that middle third, and they’ve got us some real good go-forward so it was kind of easy playing off the back of that.

“For me [now], it’s when things are against us, or our backs are against the wall, trying to create opportunities for my teammates.”

Source: Read Full Article