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A win-win situation: The fullback transaction that ignited two clubs

Twelve months on from parting ways with a likely generational talent at fullback, it can be said with all sincerity that the Warriors have lost nothing in that position throughout season 2023. 

On June 6 last year the signing of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad on a three-year deal gave the Kiwi club the comfort they needed to grant Reece Walsh an early release from his contract to join the Broncos and he left Auckland at the conclusion of that campaign. 

It was a sliding doors moment that worked for all parties involved and it's been a key factor in both the Broncos and Warriors ending five-year finals droughts to meet in a preliminary final this Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium. 

The two players sit at near opposite ends of the NRL fullback spectrum in terms of their style and strengths and have each become ideal fits for their respective sides. 

Walsh, in the infancy of his career, is high risk and high reward. But the current Brisbane squad is built in such a way that they have been able to absorb the pressure created by his NRL-high 36 handling errors, which have come alongside 31 direct try involvements. 

In a settled side with a star-studded forward pack who can do the grunt work for him, the 21-year-old has returned to his junior club and added another dimension to their attack, forming a lethal three-pronged combination with Adam Reynolds and Ezra Mam. 

While Nicoll-Klokstad doesn't have the same athletic gifts or ability to influence the attack on that level, the Warriors don't need him to.

Instead he brings a running game second only to Dylan Edwards in terms of fullbacks – which has been vital to his side holding their own despite having a generally undersized forward pack – while he's been a steady hand who's made minimal errors for a new-look side with a rookie head coach. 

It may be looked at differently in time, but right now there have been no losers in this according to the man who pulled the trigger on the sequence of events. 

"There’s no other way of looking at it. It worked out really well for both players," Warriors CEO Cameron George told 

"Reece wasn’t going anywhere unless we found a suitable replacement. Not just a replacement, but a person that we deemed to be an equal contributor to our footy club and when Charnze’s name came across my desk it just made so much sense.

"I wouldn’t trade Charnze for anybody in the competition."

At the heart of the decision for both players was family. 

It allowed Walsh to return to Brisbane and be closer to daughter Leila, while Nicoll-Klokstad was ready to get home after four seasons in Canberra and is now settled with wife Alexis and sons Rio and Kyrie.

"I had a really nice moment with my wife before the game [against the Knights last week] and had some reflection on how the last 12 months have been," Nicoll-Klokstad told 

CNK came to play!

"Especially how it ended in Canberra to where it is now. This time last year I was in reserve grade not being too sure how being back home was going to be.

"Fast forward 12 months and we are thriving. We are in our own home and real happy, our marriage is thriving and footy is just icing on the cake."

Having missed their prior meeting in Round 13 this year due to being in camp with the Maroons, this Saturday marks Walsh's first opportunity to take on the club who gave him the first 38 appearances of his NRL career. 

Walsh scored 11 tries in 38 appearances for the Warriors. ©NRL Photos
Walsh scored 11 tries in 38 appearances for the Warriors. ©NRL Photos

Having since gone on to become an Origin player and live up to the billing placed on him as one of the game's best young talents, he remains grateful for the role the club played in his development. 

"When I went there I was a fresh teenager and ready to learn," Walsh said. 

"All I wanted to do was play NRL. They gave that to me and they will always hold a soft spot in my heart.

"I made some really good relationships there on and off the field... I don't regret [leaving], but it was hard to leave.

Reece Walsh steps up

"Looking back at it now, where the two clubs are and where Charnze is now and where I am, we wouldn't take it back for anything.

"I think it has worked out for both [clubs] pretty good."

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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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