As I was perusing the wilds of twitter on the weekend, I came upon a rumour (below) from the Raiders camp reported in the Daily Telegraph. The rumour said that Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad could be moved to wing or centre next year to make way for Caleb Aekins. At face value this wouldn’t be smart. So what’s going on?
First, as to the credibility of the rumour. It came from David Riccio, who is a respected rugby league journalist (as much as one can be). He’s clearly had a few conversations with Ricky Stuart recently – for example he reported on Jarrod Croker’s shoulder injury in the preliminary final. It’s safe to say to me he didn’t make this up, and that he likely received it from someone in the club, off the record so to speak.
Update: this has now been confirmed by Sticky himself as per below
So do the Raiders actually think they need to move Charnze?
The most sensible reading of this to me is that Sticky is using the potential competition to continue to push Nicoll-Klokstad’s development over the summer. Stuart and his coaching staff have often pointed to competition for places as a huge part of driving a culture of excellence. Sticky made the point to Riccio regarding filling in Croker’s spot. On the most recent episode of The Green Machine Podcast, Assistant Coach Brett White reiterated this when talking about the return of Guler and Horsburgh to the pack next year. The Raiders coaches clearly make a big deal of competition for spots as being important in esnuring established players continue to develop.
And Charnze has space to develop. At times he has been shaky under the high ball, and it would be a bonus if he was to develop some more ball-handling and creative ability. It’s no means a necessity – Nicoll-Klokstad is already an elite fullback. He does a huge amount of yardage work for the side, something recognised by White on the Green Machine Podcast, and his defence has saved the Raiders’ bacon on so many occasions. But if a bit of background noise can inspire the custodian to expand and develop his game then that’s a good thing. Whether a man who nearly kills himself with effort every time he plays needs a kick in the pants is a relevant question.
Moving Charnze also feel unlikely given the rampant depth the Raiders have in the outside backs. The challenge there, as we wrote here, is to find certainty, consistency and stability from a horde of young chargers. Adding Charnze into this mix at a position he’s only ever played because Roger Tuivasa-Shek exists won’t create certainty or consistency. And unless Caleb Aekins has suddenly become Tuivasa-Shek, getting him into the starting 17 is not really a possibility.
I also can’t help wonder if part of the reasons Aekins came to Canberra was that he was promised he could compete for a starting spot, and this is Sticky’s recognition of that fact.
The only thing that gives me pause about this assessment is the Aidan Sezer experience. You remember when Sticky moved Aidan to hooker despite him not being a hooker, weakening the Raiders at one position in a vein attempt to fix another? This would be a repeat of this. The Raiders would be worse at fullback, and potentially worse at centre, while not building consistent connections across the back, or even developing it’s young chargers. Keep in mind that it’s possible that no-one across its centre/three-quarters from the preliminary final will be starting in the same position in 2021, it would be suicide to further shake things up just to move your only stable piece into an unfamiliar role.
So yeah, I don’t think it’s a good idea, but I also don’t think this is a real likelihood. The Raiders love some competition, and this is more of that. When push comes to shove in 2021 though, Nicoll-Klokstad will be at his best position: fullback.
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