NRL: NZ Warriors return breathes new life into Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's flagging career

NZ Warriors are in the thick of a gruelling pre-season, but there's no place Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad would rather be. 

The fullback endured a turbulent 2022 on and off the field, but he's determined to make the most of his second stint at Mt Smart. 

His surroundings have brought a sense of deja vu for Nicoll-Klokstad. 

"It is very surreal," he told Newshub, after an exhausting field session under the baking hot Auckland sun. 

But Nicoll-Klokstad, 27, is enjoying every lap, shuttle and gym session, conceding he hasn't been as happy as he is now in a long time. 

Five years after leaving the Warriors for Canberra Raiders, he's back at the place he regards as home. 

"Just walking in, and seeing the big emblem and the big Simon Maannering mural, it brings back so many memories. I had to take a deep breath in and be present in that moment.

"I always wanted to be back at the Warriors, but I just wasn't sure how that would eventuate. I grew up watching the Warriors, Stacey Jones was my favourite player."

A successful stint at Canberra, including a Grand Final appearance in 2019 came to a disappointing end last year when he was dropped to reserve grade. 

He concedes the faith shown in him by NZ Kiwis coach Michael Maguire at the World Cup helped a lot. 

"Being in a high level environment, surrounded by professional players, was pretty special for my development as a player.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scores a try for the Kiwis
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scores a try for the Kiwis. Photo credit: Photosport

"It was a bit of a reward too, because I could have gone the other way. I could have lost my values, morals, work ethic.

"It would have been easy to doubt where you were at, being dropped to reserve grade.

Life off the field was also tough, with two young sons living back in New Zealand with his former partner.

Being home is significant in more ways than one. 

"I feel refreshed, I feel energised," Nicoll-Klokstad said, reflecting on a tough 12 months, but ready to dive head first into a new season with new opportunities, as the club prepares for their homecoming campaign.  

"Just to come back and play the game I grew up playing, being close to family and being happy - it's pretty special.

"The freshness of having Webby [Andrew Webster] as a coach… he's bringing something I haven't experienced before.

"I've been in this gig eight years now, just the freshness and the level of detail he expects from us under fatigue… it's all pretty cool and really exciting."

New Warriors coach Andrew Webster at training
New Warriors coach Andrew Webster at training. Photo credit: Photosport

Webster's using his first pre-season to build a relentlessly competitive environment at the club, something on full display at the session, with their first pre-season trial against Wests Tigers at just three weeks away. 

"That's a habit you need to learn," explains Wesbter. "There's a winner and a loser, someone disappointed and someone happy. 

"If they're running a speed drill and running against each other, who's going to win, who's going to celebrate it and who's going to be the loser."

For Nicoll-Klokstad, being back where he belongs and close to loved ones is already a big win.