Code-hopper confirms he is ditching League early
NEWS: Rugby League star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has confirmed he will cross codes at the end of this year’s NRL season to pursue his dream of playing for the All Blacks.
The star Warriors fullback held a press conference on Saturday to confirm his departure from the club following reports that he will move to rugby union with the aim of playing at the 2023 World Cup in France.
Tuivasa-Sheck will play for the Warriors this season before joining New Zealand Rugby [NZR], with the 2013 NRL Premiership winner and 2018 Dally M Medal recipient confirming he will be released from the final year of his contract with the Auckland club.
“Today is all about confirming that this year will be my last year with the Warriors and, yes, I will be moving to New Zealand Rugby next year,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.
“The club has been supportive with the request and the options for me to explore and I’m so grateful for them. 2021 my focus is here, with this club and these players. I’m excited about this year and so should Warriors and NRL fans.
“Rugby is down the line and all that stuff will happen later in the year but right now my focus is with the Warriors.
“It’s always been there, it’s no secret. Rugby has been the game I’ve grown up playing. It’s always been there in the background.
“To do it now in a time like this and have the club’s support, that’s why I chose it now.
“There’s still a lot of goals I’m chasing [in league] and that’s what I’m trying to do this year with the club.
“We’ve got a great group here and coaching staff to do something special this year.”
Tuivasa-Sheck is no stranger to rugby union, having played as a schoolboy for the Otahuhu College 1st XV, before going on to play for the Blues U18 and New Zealand Schools sides in 2011.
However, he joined the Sydney Roosters straight out of school and, alongside former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams, helped guide them to the 2013 NRL title.
A move to the Warriors beckoned in 2016, and two years later he was awarded the Dally M Medal for the NRL’s best player, becoming the first player from the club to do so.
In signing on with NZR, Tuivasa-Sheck brings the curtain down on a glittering rugby league career after plenty of speculation regarding a return to rugby union.
The loss of the 20-test Kiwi isn’t just a massive blow for the Warriors, but for New Zealand rugby league as a whole.
Tuivasa-Sheck was an inspiration in the NRL last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, earning countless plaudits for his leadership as the Warriors were forced to spend months away from home in Australia to keep the competition alive.
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He was the only member of the Warriors whose family, comprised of his partner and two young children, didn’t join him across the ditch at any point during the campaign, which lasted from May to September.
The Warriors have since headed back to Australia for at least the opening four rounds of the 2021 NRL season.
Tuivasa-Sheck was also expected to play a key role for the Kiwis at this year’s Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom in October and November, but it is unclear whether he will be available.
The 27-year-old told reporters he is yet to sign with any franchise for next year’s Super Rugby campaign, but the Blues are considered hot favourites to land his signature.
He is expected to ply his trade in union as a wing or fullback, although his former New Zealand Schools coach Andrew Douglas believes his long-term future in the sport lies at centre.
Regardless of which position he finds himself in, Tuivasa-Sheck knows there is plenty of work to be done before he can don the All Blacks jersey.
“There’ve been people saying that I’m going to the All Blacks but that’s a bit disrespectful for a brand like the All Blacks. You don’t just walk into the All Blacks,” he said.
Tuivasa-Sheck also paid tribute to the Warriors and his teammates as he highlighted how difficult a decision it was to make.
“It is tough. I’ve put a lot into this club and the club has given me a lot too. Hopefully we can finish on a high … Hopefully [the fans] can support me wherever I go.
“[My teammates] have been awesome and supporting me. I fronted them before. I wish we could’ve announced it proper and let them know first in a proper way but the boys have been awesome … I’m all in with them this year.
“This club is special to my heart. I love being here and the family vibe … I’ve gotten it off my chest and now I’m ready to [focus on the 2021 season].”
By Alex McLeod, RugbyPass