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Nervous marriage proposal steels Nikorima for 11th hour Test call-up

Kodi Nikorima had never been so nervous or stressed – and that was before New Zealand coach Michael Maguire told him he would be starting at hooker against Great Britain at Eden Park on Saturday.

The decision to drop Brandon Smith for disciplinary reasons resulted in the Warriors five-eighth being a last-minute addition to the Kiwis team.

The 12-8 win over the Lions capped a stressful week for the former Broncos playmaker.

Nikorima had gone to Queenstown on Monday with the intention of proposing to his partner Breanna but his plans initially went astray after the helicopter he had hired to take them for a picnic on the Southern Alps was cancelled due to bad weather.

After making alternate arrangements, Nikorima went down on bended knee and offered Breanna with a ring he had picked up in Sydney while in camp with the Kiwis for the World Cup 9s.

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"It was the most nervous time of my life," Nikorima said after New Zealand's victory at Eden Park.

"There is a part of you that thinks she is going to say yes but there is always that 10 per cent of doubt that crosses your mind and it is honestly really scary.

"I booked a helicopter, we had a picnic planned – it's called Picnic on a Peak – so we had a lot of food, a cheese platter and all the meats and then a bottle of champagne. Then they emailed me on the Tuesday saying we just spoke to the pilots and due to the weather we can't operate today.

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"I almost lost it but I stayed composed, and I organised a scenic tour and we got up to mountains, we had a nice little backdrop and as soon as she looked away I got on one knee and I asked her."

After having his proposal accepted, the Warriors utility and his fiancee spent the week celebrating until Maguire phoned on Thursday to ask if he was up to playing in place of Smith, who was dropped for an unspecified breach of team standards.

He arrived back in camp at 9pm Friday and soon after went into a meeting with captain and playmaker Benji Marshall.

Nikorima had played hooker before but had never started in the role.

With five-eighth Kieran Foran suffering a shoulder injury in the opening minutes, bench utility Jahrome Hughes was needed in the halves so he played 76 minutes at dummy half and made a game high 53 tackles.

"What helped me is that I have been in this environment before. I have played with a lot of these boys so it was easy, nothing was new and it worked out really well," Nikorima said.

Kiwis captain Benji Marshall.
Kiwis captain Benji Marshall. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"I was celebrating a lot to be honest, especially the Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Then when Madge told me on Thursday I knew I couldn't drink anymore so I stopped that and I had to go for a run Thursday afternoon just to prepare myself physically."

While admitting he had been taken aback when Maguire phoned him, Nikorima said he was calm following the stress and excitement that came earlier in the week.

"I had this mad speech in my head that I was going to say about how much she meant to me, how much I loved her and I got to the point and I didn't say much at all," he said.

"She said yes anyway so that was the main thing.

"It was a hell of a week. I got to propose to the love of my life on Tuesday to then having Madge calling me on Thursday to ask if I was keen to play. I didn't expect that at all. I expected to come to the game and support the boys so I’m glad we got the win."

Maguire did not want to go into detail about the reason Smith had been dropped but said he was available for selection in next Saturday's second Test against Great Britain in Christchurch, along with playmaker Shaun Johnson.

"We've got certain expectations around what we want to do with the jersey now," he said.

"I'm not going to go into it, but expectations are there for the players. 

"It's nothing major, but the expectations are what we're doing with the Kiwis jersey now are at such a high level.

"I've got a really strong senior leadership group that are working hard in the background and Smithy will bounce back, just the same as what Shaun showed.

"Shaun was all about the team. I spoke to him about what he needed to do and he sure enough jumped into this week's training, just the same as Smithy is going to do this week."

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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