NZ Warriors interim coach Todd Payten has paid a touching tribute to captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who is "doing it tough" away from his family during a gruelling NRL season.
Fullback Tuivasa-Sheck led from the front, as the Warriors snapped a three-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 26-20 win over Wests Tigers at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday night.
Payten reveals that Tuivasa-Sheck is struggling the most out of the entire squad and is now the only Kiwi player without his family by his side at the team's base on the NSW Central Coast.
Tuivasa-Sheck has faced the ultimate test of his leadership this year, with his side stranded in Australia for the remainder of the season, while management continues to search for a new coach to lead the team in 2021, after the sacking of Stephen Kearney.
"I feel for Roger," says Payten. "I think he's doing a tremendous job.
"To be fair, he's doing it tougher than all of us. He's our only Kiwi over here without his family and he's got two babies under three.
"I know he's a bit muddled with his feelings. He's always on the phone and it's tough for him.
"He's got to lead a club, he's got to lead a footy team and some days, I can just see the burden it carries on his shoulders.
"I know he's got family at home, which is really good, but I know how I feel - there are days when you just need them around."
Family members on Australian passports have been able to join the team, but anyone with an NZ passport is unable to enter the country, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Earlier this week, the Warriors lost David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa, who all opted to return home to rejoin their families.
Payten says Tuivasa-Sheck has never considered quitting, despite his struggles.
"I made the decision to bring my family over, and I told him it's been a weight off my shoulders and I think he should do the same," says Payten.
"I know his family has family at home, which is a big help, but I know how I feel and there are just days when you need them around. He's said it openly that his family makes him happy."
Overall, Payten is pleased to see the Warriors' fighting spirit, as he claims his second win as interim coach.
The Warriors trailed 14-8 at halftime, but a second-half try double to Peta Hiku gave the Warriors a lead they never surrendered.
"I'm happy and proud of our organisation and our group," Payten adds. "That kind of performance has been building for a while.
"I know we got our butts kicked against Cronulla [in round 10], but I think over the past 4-5 weeks, we've seen a lot of improvements in the effort areas.
"While we leaked a couple of tries tonight, we found a way to get back into the game.
"It could've gone either way off the back of [the departures of four players], but I've seen enough at training and games to believe that we can get some wins and play some tough footy. They're just fighting hard, which is pleasing.
"It was a good feeling - I'm happy they get to experience that."
The Warriors are back in action next Friday against the Manly Sea Eagles.
Join us at 8pm Friday for live updates of the Warriors v Sea Eagles NRL clash