League: Tuivasa-Sheck tried to wing it

By Michael Brown in Sydney

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck  scored nine tries in 25 games for the Roosters last season and also produced a club-high 19 linebreaks. Photo / Getty Images
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored nine tries in 25 games for the Roosters last season and also produced a club-high 19 linebreaks. Photo / Getty Images

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck thought he needed to reinvent his game.

Last year he enjoyed unprecedented success as he helped the Roosters to the NRL title, was named Dally M and Rugby League International Federation Winger of the Year and made his Kiwis debut at the World Cup.

He thought, however, he needed to add some more weapons to his arsenal because opposition players would have figured him out and it didn't help the Roosters had a sluggish start to the season.

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"I was at training and trying to work on different manoeuvres about how to get through guys in different ways and was trying to work on my power to try to bump guys off, but I wasn't bumping anyone off,'' he said on the eve of tonight's Anzac test in Sydney.

"That's been my biggest problem. I thought they knew what I was going to do so I pulled myself out of what I was going to do. The [Roosters] coach sat me down and told me players like Johnathan Thurston, everyone knows he's got the show and go but he still pulls it off. I started to think I needed to go back to what worked for me in the first place. Every player has their strengths and they need to keep relying on them.

"Just in the last couple of games I have gone back to what I usually do and it's sort of working out for me. I just need to stick to it.''

When it works, there are few better sights in rugby league. Tuivasa-Sheck has incredible footwork and speed, not to mention poise and football intelligence for a player so young.

Even off the field, he copes well with the attention and when he stumbles, like when he thought Wembley was where they play tennis, he composed himself and came armed with a good statistic (the number of toilets at Wembley) for when he next faced the media.

He scored nine tries in 25 games for the Roosters last season and also produced a club-high 19 linebreaks. At the World Cup, he scored eight tries in six games, including a double against England in the Kiwis' famous semifinal victory.

He will be remembered more for the final, when he limped off after his first carry with a fractured leg. It was an injury he sustained against England but he was cleared to play. In hindsight, it was the wrong decision.

"Training the whole week I felt sweet, I felt right,'' he said. "It was only in the warmup when I started to feel it and I asked the doc for painkillers. My first run it happened. I was shattered.

"I was taken up the tunnel and then collapsed on the floor. I just wanted to lie there and sulk all day but the doc told me to get back on my feet and to support the boys.''

To compound his misery, he witnessed from the bench the Kiwis being dismantled 34-2 at Old Trafford.

Tuivasa-Sheck will once again combine with Dean Whare on the right edge for tonight's Anzac test and it's a partnership that could be around for many years.

Both have time on their side and are seen as among the best in their positions, although Tuivasa-Sheck looks destined for a switch to fullback certainly at club level. They also forged a good understanding during the World Cup, exemplified by Whare's over-the-back, diving pass to Tuivasa-Sheck to score against England.

Stephen Kearney yesterday rated the pair the best right edge combination at the World Cup as the Kiwis coach was once again challenged about his selections and why he didn't pick Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

Few expect the Kiwis to win tonight, although the players remain confident and determined.

"We are proud of where we are,'' Tuivasa-Sheck said. "We trust each other. I look around the room and there is still good talent. We're pretty excited for the game. The pressure will be taken off and we have a lot of skilful players.

"Belief and confidence is crucial. We have to outplay them and not back off.''

- APNZ

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