Star New Zealand playmaker Shaun Johnson has advised Kiwis coach Michael Maguire to keep an eye on his Cronulla team-mate Briton Nikora as the rookie second-rower continues to thrive playing alongside his schoolboy idol.
Nikora, who played under Morris in the Sharks lower grade teams, has formed a combination with Johnson on the right edge and reaped the benefits with his first NRL try during Cronulla’s 20-6 defeat of Gold Coast on Saturday.
Johnson said he had been unaware of the 21-year-old before commencing pre-season training with the Sharks. But he's been impressed by his hole running ability and has spoken to Maguire about him.
“I didn’t know anything about Brit but I just picked up the way he ran and the style he plays pretty quick,” Johnson said. “It’s not the finished product but when you have got a back-rower that’s as willing as that, he is pretty easy to play with.
“Brit punches a realty good line. He will commit to a hole for you so I think he is a player who, when he gets used the speed of the NRL and the physicality, is only going to get better. I am excited to keep working on that combo and I am sure it is going to keep developing.
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“I have already tipped Madge about him. He is definitely going to be one to keep an eye on. I am sure he is going to be part of the Sharks system and hopefully the Kiwis system for a long time to come.”
After moving to the Gold Coast from New Zealand when he was nine, Nikora signed with the Sharks four years ago and has been playing in the club’s junior ranks.
He had just been happy for the opportunity to train alongside Johnson and was surprised to have been chosen in the starting team for the opening two rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
Nikora slices through
“I’m just trying to learn of Shaun and build a good combination with him,” Nikora said. “He is a real good player and an idol I have been looking up to since I have been at school.
“At training he just pulls me up and tells me what I need to do, what lines I should do and just to be ready for anything that comes our way because he is real off the cuff. I just try to run my holes as hard as I can.”
Morris said he had seen Nikora create havoc for defences in Under 20s like he did against the Titans and was impressed by the combination he is forming with Johnson.
“I saw that evolve at the start of the year. I think with Briton being a Kiwi, they have teamed up pretty well since Shaun arrived and I know what Brit can do,” Morris said.
“I have seen him come through our system and those lines he can run have been evident there for the last few years so I have just been waiting for the time that he hit hole like he did today.
“I think that is going to be a pivotal moment in his career to give him some confidence and he featured in a lot of half breaks today as well. He has got a good combination with Shaun and they are working well together on the right.”
Morris also predicted that winger Sione Katoa would improve after scoring two tries and running for 209 metres with the ball but finished the match with five errors.
“Some of the stuff he did in the first half they struggled to lay a hand on him,” Morris said. “He’s got a good combination with Josh at the moment and he is a great kid, another one who has come through our system, done the hard yards and is now getting rewarded.
“I think he will be disappointed with a few of his handling errors but he has certainly got some X-factor about him.”