Nikorima playing to honour family
Halfback reveals parents’ sacrifice so he and brother could make it in game
I didn’t know anything about it until last year. I was stunned. If he doesn’t do that, I stay in Christchurch. Kodi Nikorima
Kiwis halfback Kodi Nikorima still gets quite emotional when he thinks of his parents’ sacrifice, more than a decade ago, which helped to put him on the path to a professional sporting career.
League players don’t cry, as a rule, but you sense Nikorima isn’t far away, as he discusses the family back story that he uncovered only late last year.
“When he told me I had goosebumps . . . and I’ve actually got goosebumps now talking about it,” Nikorima told the Weekend Herald. “Just that feeling of love. I was feeling proud for my Dad that he would do that for us.
Nikorima will be a vital cog for the Kiwis tonight, as a part of a spine that is missing the experience of Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
He’ll be a crucial foil for Shaun Johnson, and will be expected to shoulder a considerable amount of the playmaking duties.
But who knows where he could have been, if not for a fateful decision by his father 11 years ago.
Nikorima was born in Palmerston North, but the family relocated to Christchurch when he was four years old. They lived on site at Burnham Military camp, as his father Calley was a sergeant in the army. Kodi and his younger brother Jayden were league fanatics, playing as much as they could from a precocious age.
When Nikorima was 10, his father was offered a significant promotion, in terms of rank and salary, within the army. His mother Deb also had a good job, but the pair decided to turn their back on those possibilities, to emigrate to Queensland and give Kodi and Jayden the best chance of making it in league.
“I didn’t know anything about it until last year,” admitted Nikorima. “I had always thought they had moved to Australia for a different life, but I didn’t know too many details. I was talking to my father’s best mate Duane at a barbecue and I asked him ‘Do you know why we moved over?’
“He told me ‘your Dad was on a good salary and had just got a promotion but he just said he wants the best for his boys’. I was stunned. If he doesn’t do that, I probably stay in Christchurch, and who knows what I would be doing? There are very few that have made it [to the NRL] from there, and the opportunities are much greater in Australia.”
It was a fruitful decision. Nikorima was spotted by Broncos scout Cyril Connell at the age of 12 and entered their system, while younger brother Jayden has represented the Junior Kangaroos and also played first grade for the Sydney Roosters.
“It’s something that I hold close to my heart and I am forever thankful for, that my parents have made that sacrifice for us,” said Nikorima.
“A lot of sacrifices were made for us to move to Australia as children. I spoke to Dad about it after the World Cup last year and he said it was all for us boys.”
Nikorima made his international debut on the 2015 Kiwis tour of England and will play his 10th test tonight. He has demonstrated a new maturity in his play this season.
“I’m more of a leader compared to when I first started out. I was just a young kid, wasn’t very vocal.
“I believe it is exciting times for New Zealand league and hopefully we can showcase that on Saturday.”
Johnson and Nikorima will carry a considerable burden this evening, especially with their kicking game.
“We have a gameplan put in place, though I won’t reveal too much,” said Nikorima.
“We know how good they are. Shaun and I need to be on our game, but we know what needs
to be done.”