The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

WAYNE, I THINK WE NEED TO TALK

- PETER BADEL

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.”

 ??  ?? TOUGH CALL: It hasn’t been an easy de­ci­sion to leave the Bron­cos for Jay­den Niko­rima.
TOUGH CALL: It hasn’t been an easy de­ci­sion to leave the Bron­cos for Jay­den Niko­rima.

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