While his rib was in bits in the aftermath of New Zealand’s historic win over Australia on Saturday night, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad wanted everyone to know his spirit has never been stronger.
As the dying seconds of the 30-0 victory arrived and much of the 13,000-strong crowd at FMG Stadium Waikato belted out the popular Māori folk song Tūtira Mai, which is all about unity and togetherness, Nicoll-Klokstad’s mind turned to his nearest and dearest and the emotion took over.
Having just played 80 minutes with a broken rib for the second week in a row, the tireless fullback used his time on stage while receiving player of the match honours to pay tribute to his wife Alexis and sons Rio and Kyrie, while citing a Bible verse he’s made a central to his life over the last couple of years.
“James 1:2-4. It’s about letting the challenges help build character, build perseverance, so that at the end of the day you will be lacking nothing really,” Nicoll-Klokstad told NRL.com as he soaked up New Zealand’s biggest ever win over Australia.
“It’s just about looking at those lows as an opportunity instead of looking at them as a negative. It’s made me look at it through a different lens.”
Those lows have included long periods of being separated from his sons while he was playing in Canberra and they were living in New Zealand with their mum Sarah, while on the footy front he was at a crossroads at this time last year, having been punted to reserve grade at the Raiders before securing a deal to return to the Warriors for 2023.
The 28-year-old credits his revival this season, which saw him emerge as one of the NRL’s top fullbacks, to Alexis, who he married last year, and the environment she has created for him at home.
“I can’t put into words how grateful I am for that lady. More often than not she is sacrificing for me. She is my rock at home and she holds it down for me,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.
“Without her and her guidance and love, this isn’t happening.
"I am so grateful for her and to the man upstairs for putting her in my life."
It’s also made a world of difference being back in Auckland, which is just a three-hour drive from where Rio and Kyrie live in Taupō.
“When I was in Canberra I was only seeing them during the holidays. I’d go nine or 10 weeks at a time without seeing them,” he said.
“Any time I get a little bit down about not seeing them now, I just need to remind myself that it was a lot different last year.
“This year, the longest I have gone without seeing them is three weekends.”
Nicoll-Klokstad was immense at the back for New Zealand as they handed Australia their heaviest Test defeat in history, racking up a game-high 277 metres, laying on two line breaks and a try assist.
Kangaroos v Kiwis - Pacific Cup final, 2023
The fact that he was doing it with a broken rib suffered a fortnight ago didn’t become public until after the match when coach Michael Maguire paid tribute to his fullback’s bravery and commitment to the cause.
“He probably wasn’t meant to play,” Maguire said.
“It just goes to show what players will do when they are playing for their country and they are playing for their brothers.
It was a special performance. He wasn’t quite sure when he first did it whether or not he would keep going [and remain in camp], but he didn’t want to leave.Michael Maguire
"Last week [in the 36-18 loss to the Kangaroos] he was challenged. He probably didn't play the game he would have liked.
“[In the final] Charnze was one of the 17 that was able to get out there and play their best game.”