The Cobar born Kosef, whose immigrant parents initially frowned upon his participation in the Australian sport of Rugby League, came to Manly as a 15 year old to play in the successful junior sides of the era that also contained other future stars like Steve Menzies and John Hopoate.
He was a prodigious junior talent and his rise to the senior ranks was foreshadowed for many years by many good football judges of the time including Sea Eagles coach Bob Fulton.
Fulton fast tracked him into first grade but a succession of knee injuries initially slowed his progress in first grade. These injuries dogged Kosef throughout his career and they not only limited his appearances in the Maroon & White but also his true potential as the many operations reduced his pace and his ability to step off either foot.
Not withstanding this Kosef was still outstanding for the Sea Eagles week in week out. He cemented a permanent starting spot playing lock forward but at times also played in the second row or 5/8.
He was a great ball player & rugged defender in the middle of the ruck and also a natural leader who organisational skills was one of the key components to the success of the club in the mid nineties when the Sea Eagles participated in 3 grand finals in succession.
In the losing 1995 Grand Final side, Kosef was easily Manly’s best player and a 60 metre individual break mid way through the 2nd half that almost led to a try could have easily got the Eagles back into the game. It was not to be and the Eagles lost 17 to 4 to the Bulldogs in one of the biggest upsets in recent history.
However throughout these years Kosef was part of arguably Manly’s greatest back row in its 60 year history. He formed a brilliant combination with local juniors Steve Menzies and the underrated Daniel Gartner. This trio were the cornerstone of one of the most successful periods in the club’s history and they dominated the St George pack in the 1996 Grand Final victory.
In 1997 Kosef was approached by Balmain to cross the bridge to Tiger town who were being bank rolled by a millionaire property developer. However Kosef remained loyal to the Sea Eagles and signed a long term deal put forward by CEO Frank Stanton which was one of the biggest contracts the club paid to any player in the previous 50 years.
Nik’s issues with injuries resurfaced late in his career and he required knee reconstructions in 2 consecutive years when he was part of the ill fated Northern Eagles joint venture and he only made 10 appearances for the club prior to Manly regaining control in 2002.
The 2002 version of the Northern Eagles (operated again by the Sea Eagles without the disgruntled North Sydney Bears) surprised the NRL when they narrowly missed out on a finals birth. The team was flung together late in November and contained mostly ex Northern Eagles, who were not part of a loyal Bears brigade who did their best to destabilise the joint venture and bad mouth the mighty Sea Eagles at every opportunity, as well as a few footballing nomads like Mal Kafusi and Jason Ferris.
The value of Nik Kosef on this team of mainly unknowns and rejects from other NRL clubs was not seen until the 2003 season, one of the most embarrassing years for the fans in 6 decades. At the end of 2002 persistent injuries and a contractual dispute with management forced Kosef into retirement.
Without Nik’s drive and leadership in the forwards the club spiralled from one disaster to another in 2003 and it ended in about five 50 point floggings at Brookvale Oval, the fortress had been demolished.
Nik Kosef played 137 games for club and represented NSW on 8 occasions while he played 10 test matches for the Kangaroos in what was an outstanding career. It is believed Nik is now operating a hotel in Queensland.
Nik Kosek – Bloody good but should have been bloody great.