NRL: New NZ Warriors signing Marata Niukore makes strong impression after pre-season hit out

Two pre-season games down and two weeks out from the start of the 2023 NRL season, NZ Warriors' new recruits are settling into their new surroundings. 

With the club's 2022 campaign officially rated among the worst in the club's history - 18 losses from 24 games - the Warriors will hope the only way is up this year, boosted by several off-season signings.

Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returns after four years with Canberra Raiders, while Te Maire Martin has made the switch from Brisbane Broncos.

Among the forwards, signings like Mitchell Barnett and Jackson Ford won't grab the headlines, but pre-season displays have shown the pair will play a role under new coach Andrew Webster.

Perhaps the most unheralded acquisition is NZ Kiwis second-rower Marata Niukore, who signed for the Warriors in November 2021, before playing a stellar farewell season with Parramatta Eels.

The Eels reached the 2022 NRL Grand Final, where they lost to Penrith Panthers, but Niukore, 26, was a standout across Parramatta's campaign.

He made an instant impact in a 24-6 pre-season loss to Melbourne Storm, dislodging the ball in a tackle on Aaron Pene that allowed Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to run away and score.

Now back playing for his hometown club, Niukore says the Warriors are where he can take the next step in his career.

"It's exciting," Niukora told Newshub. "Round one's only two weeks away.

Marata Niukore.
Marata Niukore. Photo credit: Photosport

"I'm keen to get back with the boys, and try and do something great for the rest of the season.

"I don't see why not, we've got a bunch of young kids at the moment and heaps of people are keeping me on my toes. It's only great for the team."

Niukore isn't the only new player looking to make the Warriors home.

Utility back Dylan Walker has signed on a three-year deal, adding valuable experience to the first-grade side.

Boasting more than 180 NRL appearances across stints with South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Sea Eagles, the veteran has also appeared for Australia at test level and New South Wales in State of Origin.

Lining up alongside a former teammate - and one of the Warriors' biggest names - Walker, 27, is another looking forward to taking the field in new colours.

"There's a good crew here, a good bunch of boys," said Walker. "I'm just really enjoying it.

Dylan Walker against Melbourne Storm.
Dylan Walker against Melbourne Storm. Photo credit: Photosport

"There's a few familiar faces I've played around with over the years. Big Addin Fonua-Blake and I played at Manly together.

"I'm fitting in pretty well. Most clubs are the same, you've got the same bunch of boys - jokers and a bit of laughs. 

"Everything's going well."

The Warriors begin their 2023 season on March 3, taking on Newcastle Knights at Wellington. 

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