South Sydney recruit Kodi Nikorima has detailed the reasoning behind his return to Australia in completing an immediate release deal to depart the Warriors earlier this month in a move to the Rabbitohs.
The 28-year-old left the Auckland club after three years and 59 games with the Warriors, who he joined midway through the 2019 season after being granted an instant switch abroad from the Broncos.
A majority of the halfback's spell with the Warriors has been placed down under, with COVID complications having forced the club to reside on the east coast of Australia to aid the NRL's battle with the pandemic.
For Nikorima, the switch moved the New Zealand international closer to his family in Queensland. For his partner, however, having to remain in New Zealand alone placed a toll on the young family, with a permanent return to Australian shores a key factor in the playmaker's latest move.
“It was a family thing of wanting to be in Australia,” Nikorima told News Corp.
“I have all my family over there in Brisbane and so does my partner. When COVID happened and we moved to the central coast, it got pretty tough on my partner being in NZ alone with no real support.
“I guess that was a turning point for myself not wanting to put her in that situation ever again.”
Coincidentally, Nikorima's first outing in cardinal and myrtle would come against the Warriors in Brisbane as part of the Magic Round fixture, with the Rabbitohs securing a two-point victory over Nathan Brown's side, with Nikorima recording 24 minutes off the interchange.
The Palmerston North product is set to add to Souths' playmaking pecking order, who are continuing their search to fill the void left by Broncos half Adam Reynolds this year.
Five-eighth Cody Walker has seemingly fallen below expectations across the opening 10 rounds of the season, seemingly placing further pressure on young halfback Lachlan Ilias.
The 22-year-old has shown poise and promise in the famous No.7 Bunnies jumper, and Nikorima plans to aid Ilias' development as the pair share their time at Redfern.
“I have been watching him (Ilias) pretty closely and he has definitely shown signs,” Nikorima said.
“I don’t know how old he is but he is still a young player. He is pretty sound defensively. The attack will come once he gets more and more reps playing.
“I am happy to help him out wherever I can. Once we start training together, I will definitely let him know where he is going well or how I can help his game as well.
“This is Lachie’s first full year and I have been around a while now. I know the ins and outs of this game. I am just happy to help out wherever.”
As for Nikorima's future at the Bunnies, the versatile half has an option in his favour for next season, potentially extending his stay with South Sydney for another 12 months should the second half of this season bear fruit.
For now, though, Nikorima has placed his priorities on fitting into Jason Demetriou's system, with a call on his future currently placed on hold.
“That’s something I will definitely decide later on,” Nikorima said.
“Just for now, I am trying to learn new systems and find my way around the area, and make the most of this opportunity.
“First and foremost I want to play. I haven’t played in three weeks due to COVID protocols.
“When I was playing, some games I have only played 15 minutes. For me it is just trying to get some time playing which is part of the reason I took up this opportunity.
“All that contract stuff will take care of itself.”
Nikorima's second game under Demetriou is scheduled for next Sunday when the Rabbitohs host Canberra in Dubbo, with the club looking to ascend their top eight place in the league standings.