As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz
It’s no wonder Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who’ll play fullback against the Sharks on Sunday, has one of the biggest smiles at the Warriors this season.
Everything is going good for the 27-year-old. He’s playing well for a winning team and enjoying being around his family away from the footy field.
But turn the clock back to a time last season and it was a very different story.
He picked up a high hamstring injury playing for the Raiders against the Rabbitohs in May, after being the team’s regular fullback up until then.
By July, and still injured, it was announced the Raiders would release him from the last year of his contract to join the Warriors in 2023.
When he got back on the footy field later that month, he made an appearance for the Raiders in the New South Wales Cup. And that’s where he stayed for the remainder of his time at the club.
He’d gone from being the first choice No 1, to on the outer at a club he’d given his all for, over four seasons.
While he’s enjoying life now, he reflects that it was a tough end to his time in Canberra.
“It was hard, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.
“Towards the back end of my stint there, I was really wanting to finish on a high with the Raiders and to not be able to get that opportunity was gutting.
“But we had a good captain in Jarrod Croker, who’s a legend of the club, and he was playing reserve grade at that time.
“He was coming into training every day with a smile on his face and trying to get the boys up for their game.
“If a legend of the club can go down to reserve grade with a smile on his face, come back and try to get the boys up, then what should make me any different?”
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart stuck with Xavier Savage as his fullback for the remainder of last season, and it raised the question whether Nicoll-Klokstad was being punished for wanting to return to the Warriors.
“It’s a hard one. Ricky Stuart picks his team on what he believes is best for the club and he thought it was better to go another way,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.
“There was nothing I could have done or said to have changed that. But I couldn’t kick stones around and I really enjoyed my time down at NSW Cup.
“There were a couple of boys there who are going to have a really good NRL career and it was cool to rub shoulders with them.”
Being stuck playing reserve grade footy meant it looked like Nicoll-Klokstad would have no chance of playing for the Kiwis at the World Cup at the end of last season.
With so many quality players available, New Zealand coach Michael Maguire could have easily looked elsewhere. But he wasn’t shaken in his belief that Nicoll-Klokstad was the man he wanted.
“It was a massive highlight,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.
“To play for the Kiwis is one thing, but to play for them at a World Cup is another.
“For myself, there was massive doubt. I didn’t think I’d be an option or even have a look in for the team.
“But I’d have to give full credit to Michael Maguire, he was massive for me throughout that whole stint, even that first time I dropped down to reserve grade.
“He was calling me, telling me to play my game and why I made the Kiwis team in the first place.
“He gave me that confidence I needed to kick on and I thought I did that, until I got injured.
“But once again, he came through and called me and we had the same conversations, for me to do what I could do and look after the process, then the outcome will take care of itself.”
If anyone had any doubts whether Nicoll-Klokstad was still able to play at the NRL level after being cast aside at the Raiders last year. Those fears quickly evaporated in his superb performance in the season opener, where he scored a try in the comeback win over the Knights.
He admits it hasn’t always been plain sailing over his career, but he’s gone through it all by giving everything he has and always trying to keep that smile on his face.
“If I’m being honest, it’s been a journey,” he said.
“There were times when you feel like your back is against the wall and you’re trying to fight your way out.
“But being back home has been so refreshing for me and being under Andrew Webster as well, myself and a lot of the boys have said we haven’t felt like we’ve learnt this much about training and playing footy in a long time.
“That’s exciting for us, we’re really enjoying the change and enjoying getting to learn more about the game as an individual player.”