In late January this year, New Zealand Warriors chief executive Cameron George announced that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck would leave the franchise at the end of this season. Tuivasa-Sheck will change codes and join up with the Auckland Blues to pursue a rugby union career and a dream of playing for the All Blacks in Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
Unsure whether he will play for the Kiwis at this year’s Rugby League World Cup, Tuivasa-Sheck says he only focussed on playing for the Warriors and helping them do the best they can this season.
His time at the Warriors
‘RTS,’ as Tuivasa-Sheck is also known, joined the Warriors from the Roosters in 2016. Moving into his sixth season with the club, he has an opportunity to achieve a few significant individual milestones before he moves from Mt Smart Stadium to Eden Park.
He is five games shy of his 100th appearance for the club. In another 12 games, he will become the second player, after club legend Simon Mannering, to captain the Warriors in 100 NRL games. And, if he plays another 21 games, he will reach his 200-game career milestone.
He was named the club’s player of the year for 2017, 2018, and 2019 and became the first Warriors player to win the Dally M Medal as the NRL‘s player of the year in 2018.
Tuivasa-Sheck maintains some unbelievable playing statistics for the Warriors. None more so than his metres gained. To start, he had an average of 175 metres a game in seven appearances in 2016, 181 metres in 23 games in 2017, 178 metres in 23 games in 2018, 206 metres in 23 games in 2019, and an average of 220 metres a game in 18 games last year.
Five possible replacements
Warriors CEO Cameron George and coach Nathan Brown suggested that they would probably go to the market for a new fullback. According to reports, the club offered a deal to Jahrome Hughes, but the 26-year-old Wellingtonian, who has more than 50 NRL games to his name, decided instead to stay with Melbourne Storm. Similarly, there were reports that Stephen Crichton might be the player to move to Mount Smart Stadium, but he too recently put pen to paper, signing a two-year deal to stay on at the Panthers.
Let’s look at 5 players, off-contract at the end of 2021, that might be the new Warriors fullback in 2022.
- Will Hopoate – The Tongan international, who has more than 150 NRL games under his belt, only played in 13 games for the Canterbury Bulldogs last year because of an ankle injury. Hopoate played at both fullback and centre in those games, scoring two tries, averaging 154 running metres per game, and making 21 tackle breaks.
- Matt Dufty – The 25-year-old has been at the Saints for more than a decade but is now feeling the pressure to retain his fullback position after Cody Ramsey signed a new three-year deal. If St. George Illawarra Dragons don’t show Dufty the respect – and the new contract – he feels he deserves, a move across the ditch might be the answer.
- Scott Drinkwater – Considered a fullback when he moved from Melbourne to Townsville in 2019, the 23-year-old shifted to five-eighth in 2020 after Valentine Holmes’s arrival. He flourished in the halves, finishing fifth in the NRL with 19 try assists but now appears to be the frontrunner to wear the North Queensland No.1 jumper as new coach Todd Payten considers shifting Holmes to the wing.
- Nick Meaney – Last year, along with Will Hopoate and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Meaney had his chances at fullback. This year, he seems to be happy playing on the wing but could be tempted to return to the Warriors’ fullback position, depending on how that works out.
- Shaun Johnson – The 30-year-old former Warriors player says he is keen on playing beyond 2021, but for that to happen, he will need to show any suitors that he has recovered from his Achilles tendon injury last year and is back to playing his best for the Sharks this year.
Pursuing free agents is not the only option available to the Warriors, but probably the more affordable one – at this stage.
Will it be a final swansong for Tuivasa-Sheck at the Warriors?
The Warriors are well placed after one round of games and lie sixth on the ladder. Betway Sports have them at 1.9 odds to win their round two game against fourth-placed Newcastle Knights at Central Coast Stadium. The Auckland club has a massive task in replacing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Not only is he a talented footballer, but he is also a well-respected and influential captain.