NRL: NZ Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck still struggling with transition from rugby to league

Amid the hype and buzz from media, fans and teammates over Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's return to NZ Warriors this season, one man remains slightly unimpressed.

Tuivasa-Sheck himself.

After two years trying to prove himself in rugby, the former NRL Dally M Medal winner has switched back to the 13-man code in a new position, swapping the fullback's No.1 for a centre's jersey in a team trying to improve on last year's preliminary final elimination from the NRL playoffs.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's return to the Warriors has the fans buzzing.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's return to the Warriors has the fans buzzing. Photo credit: Photosport

So far, he's made every post a winner, starring in the Warriors' two pre-season outings against Wests Tigers and the Dolphins. Teammates rave about having him around, fans have already forgiven him for deserting them, but his harshest critic still isn't satisfied.

"Selling out a trial game, that's unheard of," he told Newshub. "I was glad we were able to put on a show for the crowd that turned up, but definitely still adjusting to the game fitness."

Tuivasa-Sheck's early shortcomings - if only in his own mind - are probably to be expected. 

Despite their similarities, the two rugby codes require subtly different skillsets and body types, something he discovered when he was called upon to hit rucks and run different lines in union.

Now, he must relearn and retrain his body back to league's requirements.

"In union, there's a lot more stoppage than rugby league," he said. "I knew it was going to be tough, but just trying to adjust to the game today, it's real quick.

"The legs and the lungs are a real workon... making sure I can compete the whole 80."

The same can be said for the differences between playing fullback, where he made his name, and centre, where he's probably more likely to meet opposition forwards headon defensively.

Coach Andrew Webster has made it abundantly clear Tuivasa-Sheck will only be used at fullback as a last resort, placing incumbent Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and understudy Taine Tuaupiki above him on the depth chart.

"I'm stoked at the way coach has put it out there," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "It's nice and clear I'm not a fullback, I'm a centre. 

"If we have to talk about moving position, that time will come, but in this moment, it makes it clear what my job is. I'm a centre - I have weight and body composition as a centre.

"If I have to move to fullback, I have to lighten up and get quicker, all these things. I'm just glad coach has made it real clear."

Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck enjoy a pre-season win over Dolphins.
Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck enjoy a pre-season win over Dolphins. Photo credit: Photosport

Perhaps the happiest to have Tuivasa-Sheck back in the fold is longtime Warriors and NZ Kiwis teammate Shaun Johnson. The pair have chased championship glory for the club and tasted disappointment along the way.

Both have left and come back for a second shot at that dream.

"It was a cool feeling to have him strap up alongside us again," Johnson told Newshub. "I don't think he should have ever left, but he did and he did his thing, and we're certainly happy to have him back.

"He played for the All Blacks - that's not a waste of time. When you go do different things outside this environment, you can certainly grow as an athlete and I reckon he's done that.

"It's about building a plan around how best to utilise him, not just saying, 'Here's the ball, do your thing'. Roger's an extremely competitive person and I think that edge he brings rubs on on the rest of us.

"He does things to a very high level. What you see within that 80 minutes is special, but all the other stuff he brings is where we get bang for buck."