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'He's been a big mentor to me': CNK pays homage to RTS

He's been labelled one of the best success stories of the 2019 Telstra Premiership season but Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad still checks the team list every week to make sure his name is there.

The 23-year-old Raiders fullback returned to his home town Auckland on Monday to prepare for his first outing against his former club in a vital clash that could knock the Warriors out of finals contention.

It was the Warriors who granted Nicoll-Klokstad a release late last season to link with the Green Machine, who are close to cementing a top-four spot.

The Cook Islands international declared he "wasn't there for a holiday" and has been been eagerly anticipating the clash with the Warriors ever since he arrived in Canberra.

"I thought 'I really hope I get to play round 20 against the Warriors, that would be cool as'," Nicoll-Klokstad said ahead of Friday night's showdown.

"I thought 20 rounds should be enough to get into the team. To play as many games as I have this year I'm so blessed and lucky to be in this position.

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"I've been looking forward to this trip not just for New Zealand but I was bantering on with the boys saying I'm going to spend every minute with them. It's been a funny one, I really can't believe I'm in the position I'm in."

Nicoll-Klokstad left the Warriors in February and had just a month to try and cement a spot after Jack Wighton's well-publicised move from fullback to five-eighth.

"It's crazy, I was telling my partner let's settle down and focus on this year [at the Warriors]," he explained.

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"The very next day I got a message saying there's an opportunity here [at Canberra]. There wasn't really hesitation. When they said there was an opportunity I was keen. It was just about trying to sort something out and luckily we were able to do that.

"The first person I went to was Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] and said, 'Hey bro, there's a massive opportunity and I want to leave'. He was stoked for me and wished me the best. He was really good in that regard."

Nicoll-Klokstad said Tuivasa-Sheck had been enormous for his career with the apprentice now set for a clash with the reigning Dally M medallist.

"I doubt I would be the fullback I am without him. He's been such a big mentor to me and a really great role model on and off the field," Nicoll-Klokstad said.

"His professionalism and how he conducts himself, he's a true gentleman of rugby league. If I could be one percent of what he is I'd be happy with that."

Nicoll-Klokstad is no doubt on the radar of rival clubs but is expected to pen a new deal with the Raiders in coming weeks.

"Being here long-term is definitely on the cards," he said.

"I hope we get to a solution and both parties can agree. It's not often I'm in this position."

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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