The huge bonus benefit of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck playing NPC
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s early release from his Warriors contract will allow the NRL star to link up with Auckland for the upcoming provincial season.
There are some obvious benefits for Tuivasa-Sheck – namely that he gets to wet his feet in the NPC before taking on the tougher challenge of Super Rugby next year – but there will be some less discussed positives to come out of his early transition to the fifteen-man code as well.
Speaking on the latest episode of the Aoteara Rugby Pod, former Blues players Bryn Hall and James Parsons were pleased that Tuivasa-Sheck is giving himself as much time as possible to acclimatise back to rugby union, the sport he played during his high school years.
Benji Marshall made a similar transition from league to union for the Blues’ 2014 Super Rugby campaign but struggled hugely with the move and before the season was over, Marshall was back playing in the NRL.
That challenge would have been considerably less intense if Marshall had been able to notch up some minutes in the prior year’s provincial competition.
“If we talk around the example of Benji, he missed the Mitre 10 Cup,” said Crusaders halfback Hall. “He had the opportunity to come to the Mitre 10 Cup and, for whatever reason, the coaches said they’ll just get him in for the Super season.
“Actually talking to him during that process, he said, ‘I should have actually gone back and played in that Mitre 10 Cup – just be able to eye out a few things, get used to it.’
“RTS might go into the fullback and winger role, which is a little bit easier than [Marshall’s position of] 10, but it’s a great opportunity for him to come back, get himself ingrained into what he did [during his formative years]. He did play a lot at school, I played against him a lot, so he does have that familiarity of what it does [take] to be a rugby player. It’s changed a little bit in the time since he’s been at school so I think it’s a great call for him to come back – and great for Auckland as well.”
The other positive, however, is that while there will certainly be plenty of media attention on the 28-year-old, it’ll be spread out throughout the latter part of 2021 and the early stages of the Blues’ 2022 season, instead of all piling on ahead of next year’s campaign.
At present, few are sure what Tuivasa-Sheck’s best position in union will be and there’ll be speculation coming thick and fast where he’ll slot in for Auckland and, eventually, the Blues.
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Factor in the former Kiwi’s high-profile in the NRL, and the interest in the transition is sky-high.
“Obviously the media hype, had he not potentially played this Auckland season, comes in really heavy on that Blues pre-season and going into next year,” said retired Blues centurion Parsons. “So I think it’s awesome in that sense because he’ll have some runs on the board, people will know what he’s about, where he’s going to play because they would have seen at Mitre 10 Cup level. It makes it a little bit more of a seamless transition.
“Of course, there’ll always be hype around Roger Tuivasa-Sheck but I think to a lesser extent, having his presence in the Bunnings NPC.”
Ignoring the background surrounding the move, Hall is hopeful that Tuivasa-Sheck’s presence in the NPC will attract plenty of viewers, especially given the outrageous skillset at the departing Warrior’s disposal.
“If you think about counter-attack ability, that’s massive in New Zealand,” Hall said. “He’s going to be able to light it up and you do have the kick battles and going one or two kicks here or there, and then you’ve got the big boys in the middle.
“Imagine Rog being able to fly around that. You get him one-on-one with his stepping ability, it’s going to be great for Auckland and it’s going to be great for the competition to be able to see someone with that kind of attacking ability.”
The NPC kicks off on Friday August 6 while Auckland are set to play their first match on the Sunday against Canterbury.
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