NRL: NZ Warriors coach Andrew Webster to be patient with returning Roger Tuivasa-Sheck after centre switch

NZ Warriors coach Andrew Webster will give returning star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as much time as he needs to re-acclimatise to the NRL.  

After a mixed code-switch to rugby union with the Blues and All Blacks, the 30-year-old is back with the Warriors this season after re-signing to return to the 13-man code last year.  

But the club Tuivasa-Sheck left is very different to the one he's returned to.

For a start, the Warriors have transformed into a genuine finals' contender under Webster and finished fourth in the regular season last year - coming within one game of the NRL's grand final.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Photo credit: Getty Images

More significantly though, the fullback position in which Tuivasa-Sheck made his name as one of the NRL's best players is now occupied by Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

As a result, Tuivasa-Sheck has moved into the centres for this season and will start in the No.4 jersey in Sunday's pre-season trial against Wests Tigers in Christchurch.

The switch is a huge change for Tuivasa-Sheck, who won the NRL's Dally M medal for his displays in the No.1 jersey back in 2018.

And although the match itself may have "trial" status, Tuivasa-Sheck will share an edge with first-grade winger and captain for the day Marcelo Montoya as a means of building that combination before the NRL season begins.

For Webster, seeing how Tuivasa-Sheck goes in the centres is just the latest step towards completing his return to rugby league.

"Roger's been great," said Webster. "I don't think I'm ever going to have a bad comment to say around his professionalism, how he trains, his effort - he's just a pro.

"Now we get to see how the transition back has gone. It's been easier than going [to rugby union] because it's a game he's comfortable with.

"There's certain habits and different things that he's picked up that he's had to correct and get back to rugby league.

Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Photo credit: Getty Images

"He's done a really good job."

Even for a player as adept as Tuivasa-Sheck, swapping positions is not easy; some of the best in the game have struggled to change away from their preferred role.

But Tuivasa-Sheck's time in rugby union, where he played in midfield, could have a benefit to his transition.

Naturally, there will be commentary - positive and negative - on how Tuivasa-Sheck's switch goes.

However, Webster himself has made it abundantly clear Tuivasa-Sheck will be given the opportunity to learn on the job as he makes his way back to his best.

"We can't control what everyone's going to say," he continued. "Expectation comes from other people. We're not putting expectations on ourselves; I'm not putting any on Roger.

"If Roger wants to make sure he does what his goal for the game is, and what we want to do for him, there is no expectation externally.

"The only expectation is what matters in our four walls. But we still celebrate the fans and support we get from other people.

"If we're feeling pressure, it's because we're putting it on ourselves, not because we're listening to other people."

Meanwhile, with a full pre-season under his belt, Tuivasa-Sheck's impression on his new teammates is obvious.

Of the 17 players named for Sunday's trial, only Montoya, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Bunty Afoa were at the club when Tuivasa-Sheck departed in July 2021.

But those playing alongside the former captain for the first time already like what they see.

"He's brought heaps," said half Luke Metcalf. "You can tell he was captain of the club before he left.

"He just brings so much leadership and experience. Looking at his highlight real, he's bringing so much x-factor to our team.

"I'm so keen to play with him on the weekend, to actually see it with my own eyes.

"I can't wait."