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Nikorima hit a peak in 2020 but plans on going higher

Kodi Nikorima is coming off what he considers his most consistent NRL season, but the Warriors five-eighth says he's got plenty of improvement left in him.

In his first full campaign at the club, having moved from Brisbane after seven games in 2019, Nikorima was in strong form and played all but one of the 20 rounds as the team fell just short of the finals.

"I can definitely take a lot of confidence out of that, but I don't want to look back and say that was my best year," he told

"I want to continue to grow my game and my best years are definitely ahead of me if I can knuckle down and keep working hard and putting what I do out here [at training] into games."

New coach Nathan Brown has high expectations for Nikorima and anticipates that he'll challenge defences more often in 2021.

"He's worked hard on parts of his passing, and you find that when they get right the parts of the game that suits them, their running game becomes a bit of a habit," Brown said on Wednesday.

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"We think he's going to keep growing as a player. Not just because of his training, but because of his experience too.

"He's at a good age now of 26 and last year Mooks [Stephen Kearney] put him in at [five-eighth] and left him there, then Toddy [Payten] took over [as coach] and left him there.

"So he did get some consistency playing in the one spot, whereas at times during his career he's been moved a lot. He's played fullback, half, five-eighth, hooker and number 14 [as a bench utility].

"The combination of playing in the one spot last year and then having the chance to work and understand in his mind that he is going to be playing in the same position this year will help him."

Nikorima, who began his career under Wayne Bennett and also played under Anthony Seibold, has found merit in Brown's coaching style.

"I think he's spent more time changing the middle forwards and how we want them to play," Nikorima said.

"In terms of the spine, he knows the game so well and him being an ex-spine player has helped me and my game."

The Kiwis representative has enjoyed building his partnership with 21-year-old halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita.

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The pair, who combined well after Blake Green's mid-season departure to Newcastle last year, have been named for Saturday's round-one clash against the Titans at Central Coast Stadium.

"I think every year as a half, you've got to keep taking more responsibility and with Blake Green leaving, I had to step up. I've got to guide the team around as much as I can," Harris-Tavita said.

"Kodi's strength is his running game and my strength is guiding the team around, so if we're both doing our jobs then we're complementing each other and the team's going to benefit from it."

Brown believes the halves, as well as fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Wayde Egan, can take advantage of a quicker game following the NRL's latest round of rule changes.

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"Wayde hasn't really played much with Chanel, Kodi and Rog - and Chanel, Kodi and Rog haven't played much [as a trio] either because Greeny was the halfback with Kodi for a fair period of time," Brown said.

"Chanel's sort of been in and out. The back-end of last year he played seven games straight as a half with Kodi. Whatever way we start and the way their combinations are early, you'd like to think they're only going to grow over time. That's common with any combination: the more you play together, the better you get."

Harris-Tavita didn't play in the 12-all trial draw against the Gold Coast due to a quad injury. His general-play kicking won't be affected in round one, but Nikorima will take the conversion attempts.

Nikorima, who understands what it's like to be calling the shots as a young playmaker, praised Harris-Tavita.

"He's a talented kid and he's definitely got a lot of growth in his game, and I'm excited to be part of his development," he said.

Both men are keen to utilise the momentum and quick play-the-balls generated by their big forward pack including prized recruits Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila.

"I get a lot of comments - 'it must be so fun' - but you actually have to tackle them at training which is the worst part," Harris-Tavita said.

"But when it comes to game-day, you're stoked."

There's plenty of hype around the Warriors, but Harris-Tavita revealed a simple set of values is keeping the squad focused.

"Training consistently; earning everything off the field so that when it comes to game-time it just becomes second nature," he said.

"Working for each other. A little phrase we've got going is, 'For the circle', and our circle is everyone that's part of the club and the organisation. Whenever we're working hard, we're doing it not just for the team but for everyone."

Winger David Fusitu'a can sense "something special" building.

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"We have an expectation on each other and the players that we have to go out there and perform," said Fusitu'a, who returned to New Zealand for family reasons after seven games last year.

"Not only perform, but perform well and consistently. I feel like, heading into this season with the players we have around, it gives us confidence that we can definitely shake up the competition."

Meanwhile, second-rower Bayley Sironen is keen to assert himself as a regular first-grader and has liked Brown's "hands-on" approach.

"We're adapting well to his ideas and we're really keen to put them into practice," the former Rabbitoh said.

"We know where we're at. We know we've got a really good squad and we're going to be pushing to lift that trophy at the end of the year. We're setting ourselves some expectations, but we're trying to block out that outside noise a little bit."

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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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