If there is a gap between Nicoll-Klokstad and the game’s best custodians, it is closing. For proof, look no further than his most recent performance. Against the Roosters, he ran until he could run no more.
“CNK” clocked 245 metres from 22 carries, including one line break. Perhaps most importantly, he pulled off a cover tackle on a seemingly try-bound Josh Morris, bundling the famed finisher into touch. Come fulltime, it proved a match-winning play.
The exertions took their toll. The Kiwi international was hamstrung by severe cramps that threatened to end his contribution prematurely.
“I was carrying on a little bit,” he chuckled. “It was sore – I haven’t seen much footage of it – but I definitely copped a lot of stick over it.”
According to GPS data, Nicoll-Klokstad ran nine kilometres against the premiers, well within his customary range of output.
“It was more the first 20 minutes that caught up with me personally in the back end of the game,” he said. “I take salt tablets before the game and at half-time. I add salt to my food all through the week. It would have just been adrenaline.”
In a bid to prevent further cramps, the 25-year-old will be adding even more sodium to his diet.
“It’s what the game required of me from a physical point of view. It’s a finals series, it’s a different beast, it’s not an ordinary game,” he said. “It’s nice to look at it from an improvement point of view, to see what we can do this weekend.”
This weekend, against Melbourne, Nicoll-Klokstad will be required to do more of the same. The Auckland product studies footage of the game’s best fullbacks in a bid to improve his game.
“During the preseason I did a fair bit,” he said. “I look at Roger, Tedesco, Gutherson, off the top of my head. I try to picture what they are looking at. I talked to the coaches as well to see what I need to add to my game.”
Another No.1 he enjoys watching is this weekend’s opponent, Ryan Papenhuyzen. The Storm fullback has been in a rich vein of form himself, to the point where he has emerged as a genuine contender for Brad Fittler’s Blues squad.
“He’s a freak,” Nicoll-Klokstad said. “There are some things you can’t teach. He’s got some things you can work on, but where I will never get to where he is at is with speed.
“You can’t teach speed. Speed is power and he’s got a lot of it. I just take what I can from a skillset point of view, but your make-up, your DNA, I can’t get that.”
As soon as the season is over, Nicoll-Klokstad will be reunited with his family. He has two young children in New Zealand he hasn’t seen for two months. There are morning and evening Facetime sessions, but it’s not the same as seeing them in the flesh.
“I just let them know I love them and miss them,” he said. “There’s nothing past this week for me, I haven’t thought about dates or how it’s going to look or what’s going on with quarantine.
“Do I need to organise anything in quarantine? I don’t know, I haven’t looked into anything yet.
“I won’t do anything until my season is done. Hopefully that’s in two weeks.”
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.