Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has played his last game for the NZ Warriors.
The 28-year-old has been granted an early release from his contract and will return to New Zealand before the Government completely pauses the trans-Tasman travel bubble for at least eight weeks, allowing him to avoid a 14-day quarantine.
Tuivasa-Sheck had been due to return to the field against Wests Tigers this weekend, after missing the heavy defeat to South Sydney Rabbitohs due to concussion.
Instead, he'll board a plane on Thursday, with an eye to the start of his next chapter of his career on the rugby field, poised to play for Auckland in the upcoming National Provincial Championship.
Warriors chief executive Cameron George says the early release will allow Tuivasa-Sheck time to prepare for his return to the 15-man code, with the Warriors' finals hopes essentially over.
"We're hugely sympathetic to Roger's position," says Warriors chief executive Cameron George.
"The Government paused the travel bubble last week and announced it was giving New Zealanders seven days to return home. The reality is the border might be closed for more than eight weeks.
"Roger is going to rugby union with our blessing but if we require him to see out the rest of his contract he won’t be able to return home until at least the end of September and maybe a lot later.
"It would seriously impact on his ability to make his start in union and we wouldn’t want to see that happen."
The scene appeared to have been set for the Warriors and their fans to bid farewell to their beloved skipper in their long awaited return to Mt Smart on August 15, until Australia's COVID-19 resurgence put paid to the fixture.
"We were so excited about the chance of Roger being farewelled at Mount Smart Stadium," says George. "It would have been so fitting.
"It's disappointing for everyone that there can't be a better end to a wonderful career but these are the times we’re living in. Our hands are tied."
Joining the club from Sydney Roosters in 2016, Tuivasa-Sheck finishes with 111 games and 30 tries in his six seasons with the Warriors, highlighted by his Dally M medal win in 2018.
This season, he became only the second player to lead the Warriors 100 times. His final match against Penrith was his 100th as the club’s captain.
He finishes as the only Warriors player to win the club's Player of the Year award in three consecutive seasons (2017-19).
Join us from 8pm, Friday for live updates of the NRL clash between NZ Warriors and Wests Tigers