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Tuivasa-Sheck's code swap a cautionary tale for Suaalii and Rugby Australia

By Hamish Bidwell
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

It’s hard to make the transition from rugby league to rugby.

Was the big money spent on getting Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from the Warriors to Blues worth it? Could New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have gotten more value from retaining All Blacks midfielders such as Ngani Laumape and Seta Tamanivalu instead? Maybe.


But if the Tuivasa-Sheck experiment has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot more to rugby than just running with the ball and tackling.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has made plenty of mileage out of prising Joseph Suaalii from the Roosters’ hands and into the Waratahs’ from 2024.

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Emboldened, McLennan has talked of getting other league players with rugby backgrounds – such as Angus Crichton and Cameron Murray – to cross the code divide as well.

McLennan might be careful what he wishes for.

Or at least cast his mind towards Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers, Benji Marshall and now Tuivasa-Sheck.

Israel Folau was probably a qualified success in rugby, but you’d have to suggest few modern-day rugby league players ever replicate their previous deeds once in the 15-man game.

If there is heart to be taken by Suaalii signing with rugby, it’s in the form of Laumape.


Like Laumape was, Suaalii isn’t too far removed from his 1st XV days. In Tuivasa-Sheck’s case, it was 10 years since he’d played schoolboy rugby and the game was simply not the same.

Even so, Laumape was far from an overnight success when he joined the Hurricanes from the Warriors. He could carry the ball well, but there was little else in his repertoire.

Developing kicking and passing skills are one thing, but the collision areas are so different in the two sports. There’s no real contest for possession in rugby league, no work at the breakdown to be done.

The space and the speed and the angles of everything are all different. The ball might be similar and the dimensions of the field, but the overall similarities are becoming increasingly scant.


Did he never possess the breadth of skills to succeed in rugby? Without wanting to be unkind, you’d have to say probably not.

Instinct is everything and that split-second of indecision can be what separates the elite players from the competent ones.

If you’re having to think ‘what am I meant to do here?’ Then the moment is lost.

So good luck with Suaalii. Good luck getting Crichton, Murray or even Roosters coach Trent Robinson to shine with Rugby Australia as well, which McLennan recently floated too.

I’m not going to be critical of Tuivasa-Sheck for his modest performances with the Blues or even NZR for that matter.

But I am definitely going to suggest that investing in the talent you have is better than plucking stars from an increasingly different game.


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