Canberra Raiders sign NZ Warriors outside back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
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Canberra Raiders sign NZ Warriors outside back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's signing on a two-year deal is another brick in Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart's plans to build a lime green defensive wall.

That's the reason behind the plan to switch fullback Jack Wighton to five-eighth - provided Stuart can find a new fullback to do that defensive job as well.

Former Warriors outside back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is in the mix for the Raiders No.1 jersey.

Former Warriors outside back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is in the mix for the Raiders No.1 jersey.Credit:NRL Imagery

It's all about defence.

Which is why the 189-centimetre-and-93-kilogram Wighton looks set to partner halfback Aidan Sezer in the playmaking roles.

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But if Stuart can't find a fullback up to NRL standard then Wighton will be custodian and he'll turn to another five-eighth who can do the job defensively.

Sam Williams hasn't been ruled out of being in the halves, having bulked up over the off-season.

Nicoll-Klokstad wants to wear the No.1 jersey, which is why he's left the New Zealand Warriors with one-year left on his contract.

The 23-year-old is an option at fullback, where Michael Oldfield, Brad Abbey and development player Bailey Simonsson have been training this pre-season.

Because of Stuart's defensive mindset, Oldfield appeared to be the frontrunner before Nicoll-Klokstad's arrival on Friday.

Nicoll-Klokstad made his NRL debut for the Warriors in 2017 when he scored seven tries in seven games and he played one Test for the Cook Islands.

But he didn't play last season after he was stuck behind the NRL's leading try scorer David Fusitua (23 tries) and Ken Maumalo.

He adds cover in a range of role in the Raiders' backline - fullback, wing and the halves.

But fullback's what he's brought his young family across the ditch to play.

"I’m looking to play at fullback however any position in the NRL I would be grateful for," Nicoll-Klokstad said.

His arrival will help cover the loss of Raiders star winger Jordan Rapana, who could miss the first half of the season due to a shoulder reconstruction.

The NRL have given the green light for the Green Machine to get salary cap relief for Rapana, who was injured playing for New Zealand in their three-Test series against England last year, but Nicoll-Klonstad hasn't been signed using that allowance.

He's part of Stuart's 30-man squad.

The Raiders will only apply for salary-cap relief if they find someone suitable, with clubs like Cronulla, Penrith and South Sydney potentially forced to shed players due to cap pressure.

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Nicoll-Klonstad's versatility could see him line-up at fullback or he could also slot onto Rapana's right wing. It's a similar situation for Oldfield.

Stuart wants to keep young gun Nick Cotric on the wing, where he's scored 28 tries in his 48 NRL games and also established himself as a defensive beast.

The arrival of assistant coach Andrew McFadden, who worked with Nicoll-Klokstad at the Warriors, brought the outside back onto the Raiders' radar.

His signing will also complement the work Raiders veteran Sia Soliola does off the field as he's an ambassador for Physical Disability Rugby League New Zealand.

"We just needed some depth in the outside backs and a bit of surety, and [McFadden] coached him at the Warriors and was impressed with him," Raiders recruitment boss Peter Mulholland said.

"He becomes a depth player for us and a player with a good bit of ability too, bearing in mind he can play two or three positions.

"He's got some speed, he's quite brave under a high ball, he's been at the top of his game as an age player the whole way through in New Zealand.

"He's got a few attributes that suit Ricky and Rick's been impressed with what he's seen and [McFadden] likes him so a good opportunity for the kid."

Canberra's first pre-season trial - against the Parramatta Eels at St Marys next Friday - could decide which young forwards get the chance to be part of the Raiders' 17 for their round-one clash against the Titans on the Gold Coast.

Emre Guler, JJ Collins, Corey Horsburgh, Royce Hunt and Ryan Sutton will all look to stake their claim against the Eels.

CANBERRA RAIDERS UPCOMING GAMES

Pre-season trials: Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels at St Marys, February 16 7pm; Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Bega, February 23 5pm.

Round 1: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at the Gold Coast, March 17 6.10pm.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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