Immortally wounded Bronco harshly treated by Johns
IN WHAT seems like an age ago, I was entrusted with both TV and radio commentary. It was a hoot, I loved it and - admittedly - I made a faux pas or two.
My credentials for commentary were solely as a rusted-on fan and an average former player. But I did spend most of my time watching, talking about, dissecting and covering the game I loved.
In essence, my opinions probably didn't sway the thinking of too many of the viewing and listening audience unlike, say, Immortal Andrew Johns.
Rated by many as the greatest player of the modern era, Johns has a brilliant footy mind and a sixth sense when analysing a game, and a player.
But he overstepped the mark last Sunday when he slipped a verbal left jab into the solar plexus of Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima. Not only was the veiled criticism uncalled for, it was wrong.
In praising the quality of the Broncos' forward pack, Johns quipped "imagine if they had a world-class halfback".
It was obviously a shot at Nikorima, possibly one of the most maligned regularly starting players in the NRL.
And while he may not be a world-class No.7 - whatever status that is - the 24-year-old has in fact played nine Tests for New Zealand. And he has made a fair fist of his various roles at the Broncos, with Sunday's elimination final being his 79th NRL appearance.
Nikorima and his halves partner, Anthony Milford, have been under endless scrutiny this past season.
It seems that whenever the Broncos fail, they are to blame. And Nikorima has copped the brunt of that criticism.
At various stages during the year a string of halfbacks have been courted by the media as heading to Brisbane, among them Daly Cherry-Evans, Mitchell Moses and Ash Taylor.
Interestingly, none of them will be playing finals footy - unlike Nikorima.
In fact, the three teams these halfbacks steer around the field finished in the bottom three spots on the ladder.
Okay, so Nikorima and Milford have not been brilliant all season.
And yes, at times they have been found wanting. But to publicly disparage Nikorima last Sunday, when he turned in one of his most commanding performances in a Broncos jersey, Johns was unfairly harsh.
He may well be the best of his era - and an Immortal - but he needs to be mindful that not every halfback playing the game today will reach his lofty standards.
And some, who maybe idolise him, could be affected by a jibe like the heard by a huge TV viewing audience last weekend.
On the other hand, it might be a motivation. After all, with the brickbats Nikorima has copped almost relentlessly since he started his NRL career, one from an Immortal may steel him even more.
But he has an ally in wily old coach Wayne Bennett, who backed him from the word go when Ben Hunt defected to the Dragons at the end of last season.
Now, on the biggest stage of his NRL career, Nikorima has yet another chance to show he is the real deal - maybe even world class.