Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Change In Mindset


There is a game of footy on Sunday, Aotearoa Warriors hosting Newcastle Knights and that's a super juicy game to dig in to. Right now though, we have this Kodi Nikorima story that has escalated fairly quickly and while not has been laid out officially, all signs point to Nikorima joining the Warriors in the coming days/weeks prior to June 30th. The Warriors have pounced at an opportunity to snare Nikorima, the type of opportunity they were waiting for when everyone else was talking about hitting the market over summer.

Had Brisbane Broncos been dominating under new coach Anthony Seibold, quickly emerging as an upper echelon team alongside Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs, I doubt any of this would be happening. The Broncos appear to have lost long-term interest in Nikorima and that is something that many footy nerds wouldn't be surprised at given the lack of consistent chemistry and effectiveness of a Nikorima/Anthony Milford combo. Seibold couldn't get them sizzling, neither could Wayne Bennett in the previous seasons and Seibold's now making his move.

Which suits the Warriors in delightful fashion. Much has been made about the Warriors halves depth, although that tends to centre around letting Shaun Johnson go without much word on Mason Lino. The Lino type is important here because Lino eventually became NRL-ready, someone who could slot it when required without a major dip in the team's performance. Consider it this way...

Green/Johnson = win now.

Green/Lino = win now-ish if Lino can level-up swiftly.

Green/Harris Tavita or Keighran = need a few months to suss it out, hopefully sussed by finals time.

On the depth; Green has been injured, so you cop that on the chin and maybe Keighran has been injured as well. None of these injuries were/are long-term and if any NRL team loses their leader halfback for multiple weeks, there will be a dip in performance.

Bringing Nikorima in, puts the Warriors in the win now mode. Obviously I'm not suggesting that the Warriors will or need to win a Premiership this year, but the mentality is to compete deep into the finals. This is a notable shift and the root of this move is replacing two up and coming halves, with an international half. This brings with it expectations and my angle in writing, talking and thinking about the Warriors changes as I'm now more interested in how the Warriors approach that desire for a significant finals run.

That opportunity was there with Green and either Harris-Tavita or Keighran, in a different way. For example, Harris-Tavita has proven himself a capable and enticing NRL half prospect over the last few weeks, however we would been riding a wave of Harris-Tavita learning how to control a game of footy which played hefty roles in the losses to Rabbitohs and Storm. The hope was that Harris-Tavita or Keighran would become a solid partner for Green and Harris-Tavita in particular, strikes me as a prospect with the potential to partner Nikorima down the track.

With Green and Nikorima, it's not hope. There will be a settling in period and I'd still love for a Warriors team to have the same halve combo consistently for multiple seasons, but Nikorima should slot in quick enough. In Green, Nikorima has a halves partner who is nicely suited to Nikorima's style and one that Nikorima has rarely played with. Nikorima has a conductor in Green and Green's now got another weapon to work with.

The impact this has on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's craft could be interesting as it has felt like Tuivasa-Sheck has been a major option in attack this season. Not how I'd want though, more like 'give it to Roger' and lacking the slick schemes around Tuivasa-Sheck to get him in favourable match ups. Most match ups are favourable for Tuivasa-Sheck, so ponder Nikorima playing direct, targeting an edge defender with Tuivasa-Sheck outside him.

Nikorima tends to play right edge for Brisbane and whether the Warriors operate with Green on the left, Nikorima on the right will be interesting. The halves have been a mess recently so it's hard to assess anything, but generally in 2019 we have seen Keighran and Harris-Tavita play on the left, with Green on the right - last season Green was left and Johnson right. I want to see the Storm's left edge of Green and Harris in action, I'm also enticed by the prospect of Green playing super halfback-like and Nikorima floating either side.

If you've come here for money talk, there is none and nor will there be. I find discussing NRL salary cap and contracts incredibly silly given that no one knows how the salary cap is being juggled, or even if the salary cap is an actual thing at this stage. Without information on salary cap space, or a large sample of what other players in that position are worth, there is zero context for talking about player salaries and to guess salaries would be even weirder.

The Warriors are obviously in a position to offer Nikorima something that the Broncos can not. Lovely. In return, the Warriors are getting an Aotearoa half and while Nikorima's NRL work has overall, been a bit patchy, how he's performed for Aotearoa recently and the fit alongside Green at Mt Smart, suggest an intriguing upside.

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Peace and love 27.