ZB

Why Warriors dropped Kiwis star ahead of Titans clash

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Mar 2022, 12:47pm
Coach Nathan Brown talks with Kodi Nikorima during a New Zealand Warriors training session. (Photo / Photosport)
Coach Nathan Brown talks with Kodi Nikorima during a New Zealand Warriors training session. (Photo / Photosport)

Why Warriors dropped Kiwis star ahead of Titans clash

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Mar 2022, 12:47pm

For the Warriors' halves, 2022 has an added level of competition. 

While every player signed to an NRL team wants to hear their name read in the first-grade team list each week, minutes on the pitch shape up to be all the more important for Chanel Harris-Tavita, Kodi Nikorima and Ash Taylor this season. 

All three of the halves are playing to earn their next contract in 2022, and with the Warriors already signing Luke Metcalfe from the Cronulla Sharks for 2023, the club won't be looking to retain the services of all three beyond this season. 

On Saturday evening, Harris-Tavita and Taylor will get their chance to steer the Warriors around the park against the Gold Coast Titans, after Nikorima and Shaun Johnson got the nod in week one. 

Warriors coach Nathan Brown said the changes come around more so through player availability, with Shaun Johnson out injured and Reece Walsh returning at fullback to displace Harris-Tavita from his round one role. The opening round loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons was Harris-Tavita's first NRL appearance at fullback and while a few errors crept into his game, Brown was overall happy with his contribution in what was an unfamiliar role. 

Ahead of the upcoming clash with the Titans, Brown said Taylor had been training as if to play on the same side of the field as Johnson during the preseason so he would be ready to replace the oft-injured playmaker when needed. However, when it came down to who he selected at five-eighth, Brown admitted he felt Harris-Tavita had was the deserved starter. Nikorima was named as 18th-man. 

"We had a choice to make between Chanel and Kodi, and just going on the weekend's performance I certainly thought Chanel was the one who deserved to stay in the team. With Reece coming back in, Chanel was either going to be playing at 6 or not playing...he's earned the right to play, we feel. 

"I think everyone acknowledged if I didn't pick Reece all you blokes would be up in arms at me, wouldn't you? So, the Shaun one was forced because he's injured, and the Chanel and Kodi one came down to a decision because Reece came back from injury." 

Nikorima does offer utility value with his ability to play at hooker, however hooking cover on the bench has been locked down by Jazz Tevaga to start the campaign, who can play at hooker or as a lock. With Brown hopeful of getting big minutes from starting hooker Wayde Egan this season, having a utility who can play as a middle forward is a more desirable option. 

While Brown has said previously that he does not intend to chop and change his halves combinations week by week this season, the in-house competition for minutes in an important year for the individuals may force his hand occasionally as the campaign progresses. 

"Those decisions are never ones that you like making when you're leaving someone out of the footy team, but I spoke to Kodi and he understands why we went with Chanel. We had a good honest conversation and Kodi has an area or two he can probably help himself with and I'm sure it's not the last we've seen of him." 

Warriors v Gold Coast Titans 
Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast. Saturday March 19, 5pm. 

Warriors: Reece Walsh, Adam Pompey, Jesse Arthars, Rocco Berry, Marcelo Montoya, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Ash Taylor, Addin Fonua-Blake (c), Wayde Egan, Matt Lodge, Euan Aitken, Eliesa Katoa, Josh Curran. 

Interchange (from): Jazz Tevaga, Bunty Afoa, Aaron Pene, Bayley Sironen, Kodi Nikorima, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jack Murchie, Pride Petterson-Robati.