Taking up an opportunity with the Canberra Raiders late in the 2019 pre-season kick-started Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s remarkable rise to New Zealand Test honours.
Boasting Cook Islands, Māori and Norwegian heritage, the Auckland-born utility-back played junior football for City Newton Dragons, Mount Albert, Waitemata and Richmond, before moving to Melbourne with his family as a 15-year-old. He played for local club Altona Roosters before being picked up by Melbourne Storm, turning out for their SG Ball and NYC sides.
Nicoll-Klokstad made his international debut for Cook Islands against Tonga in 2015. He returned home to join the Warriors at the end of the year and won the club’s InTrust Super Premiership Player of the Year award in 2016, as well as being named as a centre in the ISP Team of the Year.
The 21-year-old received a belated NRL call-up in 2017, scoring seven tries in seven top-grade appearances on the wing for the Warriors. But with internationals Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo, Solomone Kata, Peta Hiku and Gerard Beale ahead of him in the pecking order, Nicoll-Klokstad was restricted to ISP duty in 2018.
The Warriors granted the versatile tyro a release to join Canberra in February 2019 – and a little over a month later he was lining up at fullback in a rejigged Raiders backline in Round 1. Nicoll-Klokstad was hailed as arguably the NRL’s buy of the season. He played all but one game, finished equal-10th in the Dally M Medal count, scored 11 tries and averaged 175 metres per games as the Green Machine stormed to their first grand final in 25 years.
Nicoll-Klokstad was outstanding against Sydney Roosters in the grand final before leaving the field injured in the latter stages, but he tempered the disappointment of the Raiders’ 14-8 loss by earning selection in New Zealand’s World Cup Nines and Test squads.
After featuring in the Kiwis’ drive to the World Cup Nines final, the 24-year-old was named to debut at centre for the Test against Australia in Wollongong. He was New Zealand’s sole try-scorer and made 112 running metres in 26-4 loss.
Nicoll-Klokstad was a strong performer in the 2-0 series win over Great Britain on home soil, racking up a shade under 100 metres in both matches and a try-assist for Ken Maumalo’s match-sealer in the second Test in Christchurch.
Canberra upgraded and extended Nicoll-Klokstad’s contract with the club until the end of 2023, while he scored seven tries in 21 games as a vital cog in the injury-hit Raiders’ run to another preliminary final appearance in 2020.