Niko­rima play­ing to hon­our fam­ily

Half­back re­veals par­ents’ sac­ri­fice so he and brother could make it in game

Weekend Herald - - Your Sporting Weekend - Michael Burgess

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.”

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