New Kiwis' recruit Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad contemplated quitting the sport a year ago, uncertain if he could make it in professional footy.

Nicoll-Klokstad will be part of the New Zealand side in the Rugby League World Cup Nines this weekend, before an expected Kiwis debut at centre against the Kangaroos on October 25.

That's after a remarkable year at Canberra, a revelation at fullback on their historic run to the grand final.

But it could have all been so different.


After apprenticeships at the Melbourne Storm and the Warriors, Nicoll-Klokstad cracked first grade in 2017 at Mt Smart, playing seven games for Stephen Kearney's team.

But the following season he didn't manage a single minute in the top side.

He was stuck behind the Warriors back three of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo, who all played 23 games of that campaign.

But even when they were injured there was no opening, with Peta Hiku deputizing at fullback and Gerard Beale and Anthony Gelling covering the wing spots.

It left Nicoll considering a different career.

"This time last year I really was debating whether rugby league was for me," said Nicoll-Klokstad. "It wasn't until the [new] year where I thought 'Okay, I'll just see what happens'.
[I said to myself] 'just get through this year'. 'I've trained hard, I'll give myself every opportunity to play first grade'."

Fate intervened in Feburary, when he was offered a contract at the Raiders, with Andrew McFadden a key player in that move.

"[It didn't happen] at the Warriors [but] I have no ill feelings towards them," said Nicoll-Klokstad. "Everything happens for a reason and the move to Canberra, being able to play regular footy there, and being able to make some great mates [was great]. It's been a fairytale sort of year for me, I want to let it soak in."


His test selection was out of the blue — he hasn't played a single first grade game at centre — but was typical of coach Michael Maguire's willingness to innovate and preference towards those in good form.

"He (Maguire) called me a couple of days after [the grand final] and let me know the news," said Nicoll-Klokstad. "It was a pretty big high for me, with the journey I have been on. I rang my family straight away and celebrated with them."

Being in camp, and the prospect of playing this weekend, has also helped with the process of moving on from the Raiders' emotional defeat in the NRL decider.

"I'm slowly getting over it, but being here among these boys is a high for me," said Nicoll-Klokstad. "I just have to let it be, but it still burns. I'm more hurting on the inside than the outside."

Nicoll-Klokstad wasn't involved in the NRL Auckland league Nines between 2014 and 2017, but his skills, and ability to improvise should be suited to the condensed format.

"It's my first time in the Nines environment," said Nicoll-Klokstad. "I'm expecting a flamboyant, fast paced game and that is my style as well. [We'll] chuck the footy around, and I'll use the week to take the chance to get to know the boys as well. We have some freakish players, I'm looking forward to rubbing shoulders with them."


New Zealand's opening game is on Friday against the Kangaroos (11pm, NZT), with group matches against Papua New Guinea (3:45pm) and USA (6:50pm) on Saturday, before the knockout stages.

The Kiwi Ferns Nines are also involved, against the same countries in pool play.