The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
WAYNE, I THINK WE NEED TO TALK
JAYDEN Nikorima had the courage to say no to Wayne Bennett and now the Broncos young gun is backing himself to be Mitchell Pearce’s longterm partner at the Roosters.
Nikorima admits walking away from the Broncos and his dream of playing NRL with brother Kodi was the toughest call of his young career.
Bennett has made it his mission not to lose Brisbane’s emerging stars and when he heard of poaching bids for Nikorima, he upped the ante to keep the 18-year-old.
But Nikorima opted for the Roosters, admitting the Bondi club’s $600,000, three-year deal came secondary to the fear of languishing behind red-hot Broncos halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt.
“It will be tough to leave the Broncos and to leave home,” he said. “The coaches all have their ways of trying to convince you to stay and Wayne had a little talk to me.
“I listened and it sunk in, but at the start of the year I had made a decision if there was a better opportunity elsewhere, I’d take it with both hands.
“It didn’t matter about the money, I just want to play NRL.
“The big thing for me was Ben Hunt and Milf being so young. They have a good, solid five years-plus at the Broncos together in the halves.
“The Broncos are a great club, but I just couldn’t hang on that long.’’
Kodi Nikorima, the older brother by 18 months, was another impediment. As kids who used to bash each other in backyard games, Kodi and Jayden dreamed of playing NRL side-by-side.
The reality was not as rosy as the dream. Both are pint-sized at 174cm and both are speedy utilities. There seemed to be room for only one Nikorima at Red Hill and Kodi got the jump after making his NRL debut in Round 2 this year.
Bennett has now lost two promising playmakers, with Ashley Taylor headed to the Titans, but he is pragmatic about their departures. “We did the best we could to convince Jayden to stay,” Bennett said. “I understand why he did it, but I hope Jayden comes back one day and finishes his career at the Broncos.”