Darren Nicholls has switched between state competitions five times in as many seasons, all for the love of Rugby League.
He signed with the Brisbane Broncos and played for their feeder club, Norths Devils, from the Wyong Roos in 2014, before playing a season with the North Sydney Bears in 2015.
The Redcliffe Dolphins secured Nicholls’ signature for the 2016 season and now he is back in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW for the Penrith Panthers.
“'Hook' (Anthony Griffin) gave me the opportunity at Penrith and that’s what footy is about,” Nicholls tells NSWRL.com.au. “I love my footy and I’m training with first grade again, I guess you’ve got to take the opportunity.
“Penrith is a great club, I’m loving it so far.”
Nicholls is a crafty halfback who finished as the Intrust Super Cup leading point-scorer last season.
He also represented the Queensland Residents team last year, and longs for a shot in the NRL.
Signing with the Panthers is another step in the right direction for Nicholls, having endured a hot pre-season at the foot of the mountains with the likes of Nathan Cleary, Te Maire Martin and Matt Moylan by his side.
“It was actually a really tough pre-season, a lot of running,” Nicholls says.
“It was a great effort by the whole team with people pushing each other and people pushing for PBs (personal bests) in time trials.
“That really lifted the standard amongst the whole group.”
Despite a wealth of experience in both competitions, Nicholls doesn’t see a major difference between the Intrust Super Premiership NSW and the Intrust Super Cup.
That is, however, at the exception of a certain Queensland-based team, who made headlines in 2015 for an exceptionally expansive approach to the game.
“There are different styles of play in the [Intrust Super] Cup,” Nicholls says.
“You have the Ipswich Jets, who play very across the field, lots of drops, offloads and chip kicks.
“Where I think the teams in NSW are very game plan based, but it’s a similar standard across the board.”
Nicholls had his first hit-out with the Panthers yesterday afternoon, playing a pivotal role in their 28-6 victory over Illawarra.
The conditions were not ideal and incomplete sets remained a theme throughout the 80 minutes for both sides.
Nicholls credits the defensive attitude of his new side for downing the reigning premiers in their own backyard.
“The conditions weren’t what you love to play footy but it was a good tough effort in defence,” Nicholls says.
“We shot ourselves in the foot with the ball completing at around 50 per cent, but I thought the defensive effort was the real highlight for us.”
“There were lots of good efforts across the board, 'Reiny' (Mitch Rein) had a good game in the middle, Dylan Edwards was everywhere with the ball.
“Everyone worked so hard in defence and defence won us the game, to let no tries in in the second half is a big effort.”