Aotearoa Warriors have released all round lovely bloke Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, allowing for Nicoll-Klokstad to move to Canberra Raiders in pursuit of more NRL minutes. Other than Nicoll-Klokstad represented all we have come to love about our Warriors as he's battled away in reserve grade with little fuss and is a model citizen, there isn't any reason to be downbuzz about his departure from Mt Smart.
Capable of playing fullback, wing, centre and halves at a pinch, even with a refreshed Warriors squad for 2019, there probably wasn't going to be a whole lot of opportunities for Nicoll-Klokstad this year. Hayze Perham is being groomed to offer depth at fullback and could be an emergency halves option, while there is great abundance at centre/wing; David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo, Gerard Beale, Peta Hiku, Solomone Kata and Blake Ayshford. Then factor in the likes of Lewis Soosemea and recent signing Selesitino Ravutaumada, who will eventually slide into the first grade squad.
Even though Nicoll-Klokstad offers versatility, Beale and Hiku are perfectly capable of playing wing or centre and right now, they offer more in the NRL than Nicoll-Klokstad. From a #KiwiNRL perspective, Nicoll-Klokstad goes to a club that has zero certainty around their play-making positions outside of Josh Hodgson locked it at hooker.
Even with Blake Austin's departure, there is still a jam in the halves with Aidan Sezer, Sam Williams and Ata Hingano competing for spots, along with talk that Jack Wighton could shift to the halves. Jordan Rapana is also out injured to start the season, so Nicoll-Klokstad will be in the mix for a starting wing spot and/or fullback depending on what happens in the halves.
Late last year, NRL released the 2019 Top-30 squads for each club. This was kinda ridiculous given that no NRL club had come close to genuinely sussing out their roster and because of the shambles that is the NRL player market, those squads weren't overly relevant. In the Warriors vacuum, Nicoll-Klokstad is joined by Shaun Johnson and James Gavet in leaving Mt Smart since those squad lists were announced.
The Warriors had only named 27 of 30 players and now we can take away three players, meaning that the Warriors top-30 currently consists of 24 players. Since then, Adam Keighran and Lachlan Burr have moved to Mt Smart - both of whom are likely to play NRL this year. That's 26 blokes, with two more candidates being Taane Milne and Patrick Herbert who have featured in summer training.
Who knows how the Warriors will move to fill the remaining spots. There will be a lot more player market activity before the season starts, however there is little need to hit the market as the Warriors can promote from within. Adam Pompey is a youngster who could enjoy a promotion after moving from Sydney Roosters back to Aotearoa and given how everyone got their knickers in a twist with Blake Green's recent injury, don't rule out another young half like Paul Turner coming into the mix.
I'll finish with Green's injury, which will likely see him miss the pre-season trials. Meh. Green would have played a minor role in the trials and while it's a bummer that he will miss out on more training time with either Chanel Harris-Tavita or Keighran, most of the hard work would have already been done. Even then, it could be great for Green to sit back and observe, as well as chatting through NRL halves play with those younger halves.
Green's value is his experience and ability to mentor the young halves. This could be enhanced as he'll now have to do so without being there next to them, forcing Green to communicate clearly and talk through their development.
If the worst case scenario is Green misses NRL games, then so be it. There is likely to be room to hit the player market and I'm not even that fussed as this new incarnation of Aotearoa Warriors will ensure that anyone who steps into first grade is ready. Stay positive folks, that's the only way to live.
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Peace and love 27.