NRL: NZ Warriors turn to fullback Chranze Nicoll-Klokstad as injuries strike deep into half options against Penrith Panthers

Only a couple of months ago, NZ Warriors seemed to have more halves that they knew what to do with.

When they welcomed Chanel Harris-Tavita back from his yearlong sabbatical, they insisted he was a utility, not just a half, where he had played most of his previous appearances with the club from 2019-22.

With veteran Shaun Johnson anchoring the team, and proteges Ronald Volkman, Luke Metcalf and Te Maire Martin already committed for the season, the club seemed to have plenty of depth at the positions, so when they released Volkman to St George Dragons, no-one really blinked.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at Warriors training.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at Warriors training. Photo credit: Photosport

On Sunday, with Johnson, Metcalf and Martin all sidelined, coach Andrew Webster will be forced to shift fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad into the No.6 jersey against three-time defending champions Penrith Panthers. 

"No, he didn't expect it, but he went, 'Let's go'," said Webster. "You've got to be here everyday, it's his favourite... when he gets excited about something, that's what he says.

"He's pretty pumped. I'm sure he'd rather play fullback, but he does what the team needs.

"It's something different and he trained well today, so he's excited."

Webster has vehemently protected Nicoll-Klokstad as his first-choice fullback, even with former Dally M medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returning to the club, but has also had to shuffle his centres, with RTS and Rocco Berry also carrying injuries.

Another option was to promote Ben Farr from the Warriors reserves, but Webster has chosen to bring Taine Tuaupiki back into the No.1 jersey, which he wore so well early in the season, when Nicoll-Klokstad was a late starter.

"I love Benny, I think he's going really well," said Webster. "He's improved out of sight over the past three weeks. 

"Taine's done an exceptional job every time he's played NRL. If we try to complicate it this week and if we don't have a running mentality, Charnze will be great... a big body in the defensive line.

"Trust me, we're not going to come up with lots of fancy plays this week, but we're going to challenge the opposition and I don't mind saying that.

"We're going to play to our strengths this week. Not to what Shaun would want to do, it's going to be what Te Maire, Charnze and Taine like to do."

Johnson is expected to be out of action until after the Warriors' Round 13 bye with his shoulder strain, giving him four weeks to mend a variety of niggles that have plagued him this season. Webster had hoped to rest him at some point - now he has no choice.

"There's always a silver lining in anything that goes wrong," he said. "He gets a chance to get his body right and come back and feel good about taking the field."

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