NRL 2022: Family matters behind Reece Walsh's early NZ Warriors departure, says chief executive Cam George

NZ Warriors have confirmed the early release of star fullback Reece Walsh from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds, as well as the signing of Canberra Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad as his replacement.

The 19-year-old had previously remained steadfast over his intention to move to New Zealand next season, dismissing widespread speculation he'd leave the club to rejoin a team closer to his Queensland-based family. 

But Warriors chief executive Cam George has confirmed Australian reports that this season would be Walsh's last for the Auckland team, citing complications over his relationship with his partner and young daughter.

"There has been a major change in Reece's personal circumstances in the past two months, which have impacted on his ability to move to Auckland with the club next season," said George.

"We're working through his situation and have given him permission, with some conditions, to look at options in Brisbane.

"It's not the way either Reece or the club had wanted this to play out, but we respect the issues he has."

According to Australia's Courier Mail, Walsh has inked a A$1 million-plus, three-year deal to return to Brisbane Broncos, the team he left to join the Warriors last year. 

A month ago, Walsh informed the Warriors he could no longer commit to residing in New Zealand, after his relationship with his daughter's mother ended, admitting he wanted to rejoin the Broncos.

Charnze Nicoll-Kloktsad will join the Warriors on a three-year deal.
Charnze Nicoll-Kloktsad will join the Warriors on a three-year deal. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Reece has had a relationship breakdown, and he has a young daughter and he said he simply couldn’t be away from her in another country," Warriors head of football Craig Hodges told Courier Mail.

"We totally understood that, so we said, 'what do you want to do?' and he said, 'I would like to go to the Broncos'.

"On that basis, we said 'okay, you can negotiate only with the Broncos'. We didn't want to turn it into a circus, with Reece talking with all sorts of clubs and ending up going to a Sydney team.

"We wish him all the best. He is a great young kid who is putting his family first."

Somewhat cushioning the blow is the addition of Kiwis fullback Nicoll-Klokstad, who has signed a three-year deal with the Warriors, after also being granted an early release from Canberra Raiders to reunite with his NZ-based family.

The 26-year-old will return to the club where he began his NRL career, playing seven games for the Warriors before he joined the Raiders, where he was a key part of their run to the 2019 NRL Grand Final.

"Having Charnze back with the Warriors is going to be tremendous for us as a club and also for him personally,” said George.

"He brings undoubted qualities as one of the best fullbacks in the game, as well as so much off the field as a wonderful young man. He's so excited about coming back to the Warriors, being home and being closer to his family."

Nicoll-Klokstad has enjoyed a breakout four-year run in the Australian capital, but has been hampered by injury this season, spending eight weeks on the sidelines with a neck issue.

Since linking with the club midway through last season, fleet-footed fullback Walsh has been a revelation for the Warriors, earning a call-up to Queensland's State of Origin squad in his rookie first-grade campaign.

The teenager has been one of the few bright spots for the embattled side, which are currently on track to miss the NRL finals for a fourth straight season.