The Brisbane Broncos have taken a step towards the future, dropping the departing Ben Hunt to reserve grade while guaranteeing his replacement Kodi Nikorima the No.7 jersey in 2018.
Hunt will leave for the St George Illawarra Dragons at the end of the year after signing a multi-million dollar six-year deal with the Red V in January.
The talented halfback may not play in the NRL until he arrives at his new club, with coach Wayne Bennett sending him to the Intrust Super Cup to play for the Ipswich Jets this weekend.
Hunt had only played two games since returning from a hamstring injury that saw him miss five matches, with the Broncos losing both in Round 12 and Round 13.
It was enough for Bennett to wield the axe, favouring New Zealand international Nikorima over Hunt, with Nikorima doing a fine job at halfback in the matches Hunt missed due to injury.
In fact, Nikorima went unbeaten between Rounds 7-11, guiding his side to five wins in a row while combining well with five-eighth Anthony Milford.
These performances have seen Bennett guarantee the young halfback a long-term future in the halves at the club.
"Kodi was under a lot of pressure last year to go to other clubs and everyone was telling him that he wouldn't get an opportunity here, but we convinced him to stay," Bennett said.
"We've always thought he had a long-term future here and it was just a case of where that was.
"But now with Ben making his decision to go it has opened up an opportunity for Kodi and there is no doubt that Kodi will be the halfback here next year."