Souths have locked in a key member of their middle rotation, extending the contract of Mark Nicholls until the end of 2023.
It’s an interesting development in the player retention policy of the Rabbitohs, offering the 31-year-old a multi-year extension while refusing to do so earlier in the year for departed halfback Adam Reynolds.
Reynolds insisted on a deal longer than the one year term the Rabbitohs were willing to offer, and signed with Brisbane earlier this year.
In the case of Reynolds’ fellow over-30 playmaker, Cody Walker, Bunnies CEO Blake Solly said last week that the club would look to keep him for the rest of his career.
“We will sat down with Cody and sort of map out what he wants,” Solly said.
“The short answer is we want Cody here for as long as he wants to keep playing.”
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Granted, while Nicholls and Walker are in the same age bracket as Reynolds, both were late bloomers with far fewer games under their belt, and far less history of injury.
Nicholls bounced around reserve grade with limited top flight opportunities across several years with both the Canberra Raiders and Melbourne Storm, before settling in immediately at Souths.
“I always believed in my ability, I just hadn’t really got a crack. From the first day I came here, I felt like I’d found a bit of a home,” Nicholls said before last week’s grand final.
“The last few years have been amazing for me and my family, both in terms of my footy and away from the field,” he added on Monday.
“I’ve been married to my beautiful wife Perrie, we had our gorgeous daughter Darcie and it’s no coincidence that I feel that I’ve played my best footy too.
“I love this club and everything it does for me and my family. It’s an honour to wear the red and green.”
Nicholls has played 82 first grade games in the cardinal and myrtle since arriving in 2018, and has settled in to his role as a starter brilliantly.
“He’s been great for our club over the past four seasons, he comes from a lovely family and is building a little family of his own now, and he is looking after himself in terms of his career after football as well which is very important here at South Sydney,” Souths’ head of football Mark Ellison said.
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He also won the Bob McCarthy Clubman of the Year award at the club’s end of season awards night.
“We’re really excited to have Mark staying with the Club for at least two more seasons,” Ellison said.
“He embodies everything we are looking for in our front row mix. He’s a very hard worker, has a low error rate, makes good metres and makes his tackles. He is one of the most reliable front rowers in the game.”
Nicholls was moved to a starter late in the season, freeing up Tom Burgess to play the role of wrecking ball off the bench – it was a personnel decision that worked perfectly for Wayne Bennett, allowing both men to thrive as the Bunnies enjoyed a sensational second half of the season before falling one game short of a premiership title.
“I love the group of players and coaches we have, the members are second-to-none, and hopefully I can repay them all by helping us go one step further than we did this year by winning the premiership,” Nicholls said.
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