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Brisbane's Nikorima set for NRL big stage

Brisbane co-captain Corey Parker is confident teenage playmaker Kodi Nikorima can handle the intense pressure if he is thrown into a round-one NRL debut against Canterbury.
Brisbane's Nikorima set for NRL big stage
by AAP

By Daniel Pace

BRISBANE, March 3 AAP - Brisbane co-captain Corey Parker is confident teenage playmaker Kodi Nikorima can handle the intense pressure if he is thrown into a round-one NRL debut against Canterbury.

Ben Hunt's halves partner should be known on Tuesday afternoon when Broncos coach Anthony Griffin names his squad for Friday night's Bulldogs clash at ANZ Stadium.

There has been speculation Griffin will alternate the five-eighth role between prize recruit Ben Barba and New Zealand international Josh Hoffman or throw rookie Nikorima into the cauldron.

Parker said on Monday he had faith in the 19-year-old Nikorima to handle the heat in the role formerly occupied by Darren Lockyer, Kevin Walters and Wally Lewis.

"The best thing about young guys is that they play footy for what it is and they don't seem to worry about external pressures," Parker said.

"If he was to be put in the first-grade team for round one, I'm sure he'd do a good job, like he's done the last two times in the trials."

New Zealand-born Nikorima made a strong case for inclusion in the Broncos' starting side with a dominant display in the Auckland Nines, although the NRL will be a different beast altogether.

"We all got to see Kodi play in the Nines and that style of footy suited him," Parker said.

"He's certainly impressed. He's only a young guy and his (younger) brother (Jayden) is on board training in the first-grade squad too.

"What he might lack in size (Nikorima is 174cm), he certainly makes up for in ability and speed."

Nikorima, on a contract worth just $35,000, leapt into the five-eighth frame following a serious knee injury to Jordan Kahu.

Youngster Zach Strasser also failed to grab his chance in pre-season trials against North Queensland and the Warriors, both of which the Broncos lost heavily.

Broncos linchpin Barba is another option for the halves, but that would nullify his threat as a dangerous broken-play runner from fullback.

The former Canterbury star will also have to cope with a barrage of sledging from passionate Bulldogs fans on Friday, but Parker said Barba was excited about the challenge.

"He's looking forward to it as much as I am," said Parker, who might be named as prop on Tuesday instead of his regular lock position.

"It's round one, it's 2014 and a fresh start for everyone.

"I'm expecting a vocal crowd when we get down there and a hostile reception, but that's what you want when you play footy."

The Broncos have also copped plenty from some fans and the media following their worst season last year (12th), and the trial losses haven't enhanced their tattered reputation.

Not that Parker is worried.

"Because Brisbane is such a successful club, there is always going to be criticism.

"It's just about how you deal with that and how you respond. Internally, we know what's going on and we've addressed a few things. Externally, we can't control."




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