Warriors coach Stephen Kearney believes Kodi Nikorima can eventually be mentioned in the same breath as premium NRL five-eighths like Luke Keary and Cameron Munster if he adopts a professional mindset.
Nikorima’s reputation as an enigma has only been heightened since the competition resumed, with the Warriors’ fortunes seemingly hinging on his impact.
Star showings on attack in the wins over St George Illawarra and North Queensland were bisected by a missing-in-action outing in the heavy loss to Penrith.
It sums up the career to date of the former Brisbane Bronco and Kiwis international, whose acceleration makes him an enormous threat when on song.
It hasn’t been seen enough since joining the Warriors midway through last season.
Kearney benched him behind Chanel Harris-Tavita before the competition’s lockdown but a hunch the new rules would suit Nikorima’s running game resulted in starts.
The two brilliant outings left Kearney scratching his head at how to have his playmaker firing every week.
“If you’ve got some answers for me, I’d be happy to take them,” he said.
“We’ve all seen in two of the performances, especially, what his capability is.
“For Kodi to elevate himself into a position like the Kearys, the Munsters and Mitchell Pearce – for him to get to that level, it’s a matter of making sure that he performs consistently well every week.”
Kearney said he was emphasising the importance of professionalism to the 26-year-old, who will have the South Sydney right edge defence wary ahead of Friday’s match at Bankwest Stadium.
“I reckon it starts with the way that he trains and prepares himself from a mental point of view.
“That’s the challenge for a relatively young guy. It’s about giving him the awareness.”
The Warriors will be at close to full strength, with David Fusitu’a set to be promoted from an extended bench and make his first appearance since lockdown.
Fusitu’a joined the Warriors a week late in their Australian quarantine process for personal reasons and has largely been working on fitness rather than team skills.
Kearney has yet to decide if the strapping outside back will return to centre, where he played the opening two games of the season, or his more customary role on the wing.
Fusitu’a was the NRL’s leading tryscorer when stationed on the wing in 2018 but was quieter there last year.