‘Stunned’: Star’s shock exit rocks Broncos
The drama at Red Hill continues with Kodi Nikorima leaving Brisbane mid-season to join the New Zealand Warriors.
The Kiwis halfback missed last night's grudge match against South Sydney - where Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett had the last laugh over the man who replaced him at the Broncos, Anthony Seibold, as the Bunnies romped to a 38-6 win.
Seibold said earlier in the week missing Thursday night's clash would give Nikorima the chance to reflect on his future and after a week speculation and rumours surrounding his position in Brisbane, a deal has been concluded to bring the 25-year-old across the ditch.
He will arrive in New Zealand in the coming days and should be available for the Warriors' match against the Dragons next Saturday, which ironically will be held in Brisbane as part of the NRL's Magic round.
The Warriors initially offered a three-year contract from the 2020 season onwards, but since the Broncos have granted Nikorima an early release from his contract that deal will be extended by half a season.
Courier Mail NRL writer Peter Badel tweeted the deal is worth $1.5 million and Channel 7 sports reporter Chris Garry said he was "stunned" at the speed with which Nikorima jumped ship.
It's believed Nikorima was told he was not in Seibold's future plans after his current contract expired and so decided to explore his options elsewhere. However, Brisbane may not have been expecting him to leave so soon.
After losing playmaker Shaun Johnson to Cronulla this year, the Warriors were in the market for a halfback and came calling for the former Broncos No. 7 - who can add considerable depth to the team's spine as he has also played first grade at hooker and fullback.
Nikorima has played 86 NRL games since making his debut in 2015. He has also played 13 Tests for the Kiwis, and was the lead playmaker on last year's tour of England.
An official announcement on Nikorima's move is expected later today.
Without Nikorima against Souths, Seibold put his faith in teenage rookie Tom Dearden but the youngster suffered a tough introduction to first grade in the 32-point thumping. The loss sees the Broncos slump to 12th on the ladder with just two wins from eight games.
It's been a horror season so far for Brisbane, who may regret sacking Bennett and handing Seibold a five-year deal if the current woes continue. Even more devastating will be seeing the Rabbitohs surge to the top of the table under Bennett's guidance.
The pre-game hype was dominated by headlines about the two coaches meeting their former sides for the first time but it was the Rabbitohs who handled the occasion the better as they ran out six-tries-to-one winners. If the Broncos are searching for a silver lining - they found it in Dearden who stood up to the many questions asked of him in his debut.
While he did not come up with a big play or get a chance to showcase his considerable attacking talents, he was calm, composed, marshalled his side with the confidence of a seasoned player and immediately got back to his feet every time he got knocked to the ground.
At 2-6, the Broncos are staring down the barrel of missing the finals for the fifth time in their history - and just the third since the introduction of the top eight.
Asked if his side could be premiership contenders with an 18-year-old running the show, Seibold said it was the furthest thing from his mind.
"My focus isn't on that, my focus is on finding some real improvements," Seibold said. "Tom was real solid on debut, he's the best half we've got at our club at the moment.
"We've got to back him and trust him. I wouldn't put him in if I didn't think he could do the job.
"I think it's ridiculous for us to think about anything else other than improving against Manly next week."
Seibold said the club had chosen to invest in youth - with nine of its 17-man squad which faced the Rabbitohs 23-years-old or younger - and some growing pains were bound to occur.
"We showed some real glimpses," Seibold said. "Believe it or not tonight was our best defensive display as far as effective contact, I think we were at 92 per cent.
"We made more tackle breaks than Souths tonight, we missed less tackles but we were on the wrong side of the scoreline."