Darren 'Dezie' Nicholls has travelled far and wide to further his playing career, but now that career is drawing close to an end.
The current captain of the Brisbane Tigers, his rugby league career started with Holy Cross Rhinos and he since moved to Balmain, Wests Tigers, Mounties, North Sydney, Norths Devils, Wyong Roos, Brisbane Broncos, Redcliffe Dolphins, Penrith Panthers, St George Illawarra, Souths Logan Magpies and Brisbane Tigers.
Adding to his jersey collection are appearances with both the Queensland Residents and New South Wales Residents sides and there was also a stint playing in France.
It’s been a long time since the 33-year-old made the choice to head down to the Rhinos and see if he could get a game.
Now 78 Hostplus games later, Nicholls is nearing the end.
“The end is here but I have loved it; truly loved it,” Nicholls said.
“Everywhere I have been has taught me something and I am grateful.
“You have to be open-minded and ready to learn.
“I have lived in countries I wouldn’t have got to live in; two years in France was a great experience.”
The final round game for the Tigers will be against the Tweed Seagulls this week, but Nicholls is determined that won’t be his last game for the club and that they are finals bound.
Match: Tigers v Seagulls
Round 20 -
Venue: Totally Workwear Stadium, Brisbane
“It’s do or die at the moment, but we need to be ready for that and it’s another challenge," Nicholls said.
Nicholls was at the Dragons when the call he’d been waiting 29 years and 80 days to hear came, making him the second oldest NRL rookie ever.
“To play three NRL games was unbelievable and I am still close to people at the Dragons and do some work for them in Queensland so I have made good connections there,” Nicholls said.
“I think I went better in game two and three, I was so emotional in game one.
“My family came down to Melbourne and to play for the Dragons against the Storm was just a huge experience.”
Another highlight and performance in big games came in 2017; Nicholls was the player of the match in the 2017 NSWRL grand final 20-12 win over the Wyong Roos for the Penrith Panthers.
He kicked two goals in the close win and then kicked five goals and scored a try as the Panthers won the State Championship over the PNG Hunters.
Partnering Jarome Luai in the halves and combining with Viliame Kikau on the edge. Nicholls saw a chance and stepped through to score under the posts.
“I look at those guys now and they’re playing for New South Wales and having great success and it makes me happy," Nicholls said.
“That’s the great thing about rugby league, I’ve been involved with so many people.”
While 2016 brought about a grand final loss against the Bears in the Hostplus Cup when Nicholls was playing for the Dolphins, he again made his mark on the big game scoring a try and kicking two goals.
“Yeah that’s one I’d love back again, but I loved playing at the Dolphins," Nicholls said.
"Bears were just too good and they keep producing teams.”
In 2016 and 2015, Nicholls added a Queensland and New South Wales Residents jumper to that cupboard.
Also that Queensland team from 2016 was Brett Greinke, who is a current Tigers team mate now.
“I think that Darren’s worth is both on and off the field,” Greinke said.
“He is such a good teacher and coach at training and on the field and that’s an area I really hope he stays involved.
“He’s been great for the Tigers, great for me and the young blokes in the side to hear his consistent messages.
“He’s a coach out on the field.”
The Nicholls rugby league story is one of persistence, adventure and not being afraid to learn new things in new places. And it also features a very impressive collection of jerseys.