Dragons playmaker Darren Nicholls will become the oldest ever rookie to debut in the NRL this weekend at 29 years of age, having previously represented Penrith, Wests Tigers, South Sydney and Brisbane in their lower grades.
Nicholls headlines five inclusions for St George Illawarra when they take on the Storm this Thursday night at AAMI Park. And Dragons coach Paul McGregor has been plotting for Nicholls to fill Ben Hunt’s No. 7 jersey for the Origin series since the pre-season.
It comes after the Nicholls won the NSWRL Chairman’s Medal as player of the match in last year’s Intrust Super Premiership grand final, while leading the Panthers to victory in the State Championship final against PNG Hunters.
The NRL journeyman was stoked to finally get his opportunity to play in the top grade, recounting the long road he has taken to get there.
“It’s been a journey for me,” Nicholls told dragons.com.au.
“I played Under 20s at the Tigers and had one year of reserves at the Tigers, then spent two years over in France, playing there, and have been in the Broncos system, at the Panthers and also Souths, then here [Dragons].”
He will play halfback behind a pack of Intrust Super Premiership teammates including Blake Lawrie, Jacob Host and Luciano Leilua. And Nicholls is confident of where the entire club was it, with the ISP side sitting equal third on the ladder.
“We are doing really well as a club,” he said.
“Coming first and third is a good position to be in. We started slowly in the ISP but we are going in the right direction.
“When you are winning, you have that confidence and you don’t want a losing culture so with us winning as well as first grade the club has been successful for most of the year.”