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Spare me the Roger Tuivasa-Sheck gossip, his NRL days are done

By Hamish Bidwell
Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

I don’t often laugh out loud while reading something.

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Especially not when the comments aren’t intended to be funny.

But I had to chuckle last week, when catching up with news that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was potentially in contract talks to re-join the Sydney Roosters.

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Let’s rewind a little first.

Tuivasa-Sheck once had the rugby league world at his twinkling feet. Had he stayed a Rooster, he would probably be spoken about now as the finest player in that code.

Having begun his NRL career on the wing, where he won a title in 2013, Tuivasa-Sheck inherited Anthony Minichiello’s fullback jersey, establishing himself as one of the code’s brightest stars.

Only, he wanted to go home.

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No matter how rosey the future at the Roosters, under coach Trent Robinson, and how likely it was the club would win more NRL titles, Tuivasa-Sheck had had enough of Sydney.

History shows us the club bought James Tedesco as his replacement, won the 2018 and 2019 Grand Finals, and remain one of the game’s great clubs.

I’ve argued that joining the New Zealand Warriors marked the end of Tuivasa-Sheck’s career as an elite athlete. That once he put his personal life ahead of his football, it was all over.

Now, he was still a good Warrior. My word he was.

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But when Covid hit and the club became based in Australia, Tuivasa-Sheck walked out on them too. And not at the end of a campaign either.

No, despite being captain of the club and with games remaining in the season, he went back to Auckland.

So spare me this idea that Tuivasa-Sheck would be keen to move back across the Tasman.

The dots just don’t connect.

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Rugby gave him the soft-landing he needed. The chance to be based out of Auckland, still be paid well and still be in a team environment.

To me, that was a commercial decision on New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) behalf. They saw a rival business’ product and added it to the stockpile, without much thought for whether it would work.

I don’t know the terms of Tuivasa-Sheck’s NZR contract. I don’t know if All Blacks coach Ian Foster is commercially-obliged to include him in squads.

What I do know is Foster doesn’t appear to have much fondness for him as a rugby player and that the chances he ever becomes a regular member of the starting side look scant.

Tuivasa-Sheck is 29, his best footballing days are behind him and he doesn’t appear to have the all-round game favoured among All Blacks backs.

It was interesting to see Auckland played him on the wing against Taranaki, because I’m really not sure he’ll ever make an elite second five-eighth.

Tuivasa-Sheck’s contract with NZR expires next year and then who knows? Maybe there’ll be a compelling enough offer from Japanese rugby to tempt him overseas once again?

But I don’t see an NRL club offering him $700,000 to a million or him wanting to go through the rigours of that competition again.

Certainly not the Roosters, where you have Tedesco, Joseph Manu and Joseph Sua’ali’i all able to play fullback instead.

Maybe Tuivasa-Sheck can become a serviceable rugby union backline utility. Maybe Foster does develop a confidence in him and he does become a trusted bench option.

I’d be surprised. But then I was dead-set shocked when Tuivasa-Sheck traded the Roosters for the Warriors all those years ago.

We all want Tuivasa-Sheck to be good at rugby. We all remember the Rooster he was and all hope to see that calibre of football from him again.

He truly was a joy to watch and an inspiration to age-group players on both sides of the Tasman.

Rugby league was the code that enabled him to express his outrageous talent best and no rugby union coach appears to have scratched the surface of that.

But Tuivasa-Sheck’s back in Auckland, he’s earning a good whack and maybe he’s happy with that.

Instead of wondering what the future might bring him, perhaps the rest of us should accept he’s quite content with the present.

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