Māori All Stars co-captain Kodi Nikorima has no issues with teammate Joseph Tapine's decision to forgo the Covid-19 vaccine.
Tapine is the only unvaccinated player in the Māori team and part of a small group across the NRL, with 98 per cent of players having taken the jab.
Tapine told Australian media on Wednesday that he is not "anti-anything" but his stance is due to previous adverse reactions to vaccines.
Nikorima, who will lead the team out alongside Tapine on Saturday night (10pm) for the annual clash with the Indigenous All Stars, is relaxed about the situation.
"It doesn't bother me," Nikorima told the Herald. "It's his personal choice and personal belief. I respect him and his values. I don't feel any certain way to not only 'Taps' but anyone who decides to not get vaxxed, that's their choice. We haven't really spoken about it [as a team]."
The virus has been prevalent across the NRL during the off-season, symptomatic of the situation in Australia.
"Talking to some of the boys most of the teams have already had it," said Nikorima, who is one of only "five or six" at the Warriors who haven't contracted Covid. "It's one of those things that we just have to deal with it because it's living around us."
Saturday's match will be extra special for the Warriors playmaker, teaming up with younger brother Jayden for the first time since the 2014 Holden Cup grand final with the Broncos.
Jayden was a promising talent before going off the rails, with his Sydney Roosters contract torn up in 2017 after successive breaches of the NRL illicit drugs policy.
In the wilderness for years, the 25-year-old has turned his life around to gain a Melbourne Storm contract, then selection in the Māori side.
"It is very exciting," said Nikorima. "Our first training run brought back memories, not only from Under 20's days, but from being out in the backyard and passing the ball around.
"It's great to see him back. He obviously learned from his mistakes and got punished pretty hard. It's good to see him back in an NRL environment – that's where he belongs. Lucky for him he has still got time on his side."
Despite moving to Australia as a 12-year-old, Nikorima has always stayed connected to his Māori roots. That was helped by trips home on holiday to spend time with extended family and a fierce sense of national pride.
"When I was at school [in Brisbane] I would always hang around the Kiwis, as opposed to the Aussies," says Nikorima.
When the team assembled on Monday Nikorima noted the youthful faces around him and joked with coach David Kidwell that "I must be captain this year then", only for Kidwell to surprise Nikorima with that confirmation the next day.
"It was a bit of a shock," says Nikorima, who last captained a team when he was "15 or 16". "It's such an honour. Not only to represent the team, but to lead them out alongside Joey Taps, who I grew up with, played Junior Kiwis and Kiwis with."
Nikorima characterises the week as "much more than a game" as the players in both teams have a chance to learn more about their cultures.
With only a couple of training sessions together, it's also a chance to play off the cuff and express themselves, a change from the rigid structures of the NRL.
"I guess there's a bit of fun and playing sort of that `Māori footy'," says Nikorima. "Where you throw the ball around, if an offload presents itself - throw it, long balls. Obviously you are going to be a little bit rusty but we always encourage the boys to back themselves."
Nikorima will be alongside Warriors teammate Chanel Harris-Tavita in the halves, against the young Cronulla duo of Nicho Hynes and Braydon Trindall.
"They've obviously had time up their shelves in the preseason to work on their combination, similar to me and Chanel," says Nikorima. "The important thing for us using our strengths and that's our middle forwards, so we will be definitely trying to exploit that."