Playing 50 NRL games for the Canberra Raiders was a milestone that Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad thought wasn’t possible.
But this weekend, the fullback will reach that milestone at GIO Stadium against his former team, the New Zealand Warriors.
“To reach such a milestone at such a prestigious club is something that I never thought would happen,” Nicoll-Klokstad said. “There are times there that I thought I wouldn’t play another game past seven games.”
Match: Raiders v Warriors
Round 3 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Having played only a handful of games in the NRL and at 23 years of age, Nicoll-Klokstad was working hard to make his NRL dream a reality.
The fullback’s move to the Raiders came about in a whirlwind manner just weeks before the start of the 2019 season and the move has paid dividends.
Raiders assistant coach Andrew McFadden coached Nicoll-Klokstad at the Warriors and helped make the switch possible.
“I’ve had a fair bit to do with Charnze over his career,” McFadden said. “I recruited him from the Melbourne Storm when I was at the Warriors, and I had that affiliation with him over there.
“When we wanted to move Jack Wighton to five-eighth in 2019, we needed a fullback. We probably didn’t have one there ready-made and we probably didn’t have a lot of space [in the salary cap] either. We needed to find a bargain buy and Charnze certainly fit that role.”
Having seen the quality that Nicoll-Klokstad possessed, McFadden felt that bringing in the inexperienced fullback was a great opportunity for both parties.
“We knew what we could do, he’s a competitor and he’d never been given that opportunity to play his preferred position so that was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up,” McFadden said. “The thing that stood out the most about Charnze is his competitive nature. He just wanted to compete hard and that’s probably shining now as he plays NRL.”
When McFadden picked up Nicoll-Klokstad from Canberra Airport, he noticed a change in his demeanour.
“Certainly that season of 2019 when he rocked up at Canberra Airport that first day we saw him, I could see something,” McFadden said. “He was bigger - about four or five kilos bigger - but he had that real steel in his eyes that he really wanted to make a go of this.
“He pretty much stepped in straight away and had an impact for us.”
Fast forward two years, and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has a grand final appearance under his belt, has represented the Kiwis and Maori All Stars and is a household name amongst rugby league fans.
However, Nicoll-Klokstad remains grounded and continues to strive for improvement.
“I don’t think his personality has changed,” McFadden said. “He’s always been that humble kid who’s very respectful. He does a lot of stuff in the community and he’s always been that way.
“The biggest change is now that belief in himself. He just needed someone to back him and Ricky did that, he backed him, and I think he’s grown from that.”
Reaching 50 games for the Raiders is the first major appearance milestone for Nicoll-Klokstad but at the age of 25, it’s a story of perseverance as he waited for his chance in the NRL.
“Everyone has their challenges in this game,” McFadden said. “He’s certainly showed that quality of character.
He never gave up on his dream. He could have easily. There have been lots of people who fall by the wayside and lose that drive but he didn’t. Now he’s getting rewards for it.Andrew McFadden Speaking about Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
For Charnze himself, he’s pleased with the belief shown in him by Ricky Stuart and Andrew McFadden and is looking forward to the milestone game.
“Obviously, I have very good relationships with the both of them – particularly Cappy,” Nicoll-Klokstad said. “They’ve both done wonders for me since I’ve been here.”
“To play 50 games at this club is something that I will be able to look upon in the future and be very proud of.”