Kodi Nikorima admits it will be up to him to convince Brisbane NRL officials not to look to the open market to replace departing halfback Ben Hunt.
Nikorima has recovered from off-season shoulder surgery and will play at halfback against Wynnum-Manly in Saturday’s trial match, with most of Broncos’ squad – including Hunt – in England for the World Club Series.
Broncos CEO Paul White said last week they would “most certainly” consider bringing in a big name when Hunt departed for St George Illawarra on a rich five-year, $6 million deal at the end of the season.
However, he also said they could promote from within.
Nikorima, who has been used primarily as a bench utility and hooker by the Broncos but still considers himself a natural halfback, is ready to stake his claim to coach Wayne Bennett.
“It is a business at the end of the day, so there will be no hard feelings there if they do decide to get another halfback,” Nikorima told reporters on Thursday.
“But I’ve been here a while – I know the players.
“I guess at the end of the day, it will be up to me.
“I’ve played in the halves growing up, all my junior footy. I do see myself as a half but that’s Wayne’s call and he’s got his opinion as well.”
Nikorima is the obvious in-house candidate to move into Hunt’s position, despite former captain Justin Hodges last month claiming the 22-year-old isn’t ready for such a responsibility.
However, another former star Scott Prince – who was 21 when be first became a starting Broncos half – said Nikorima deserved an opportunity.
He is firming for a spot in Brisbane’s team to face premiers Cronulla on March 2 in the NRL season opener, with recruit Benji Marshall (achilles) fighting to be fit.
“It’s unfortunate for Benji, but he is expected to be back round one, so there’s a bit of competition there,” he said.
“He’s a veteran player – he knows his body. I wouldn’t say I’ve got a foot up but I’ll definitely be putting my hand up for that round-one spot.”