Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Nines: Get ready for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will make his maiden appearance this weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will make his maiden appearance this weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell

Get ready for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Tomorrow the Kiwis fullback takes his first bow for the Warriors, part of a strong home side hoping it will be third time lucky at the annual Nines event.

He's only one of almost 300 players in action over the first two days, but the 22-year-old will be taking much of the focus.

As much as the Warriors have tried to dampen down the hype heading into this season, it's unavoidable with Tuivasa-Sheck.

He is an over-achiever, over skilled and over here. In a space of a season he's changed the perception of what is possible from a NRL fullback and now he has to help change the destiny of the Warriors.

There is a buzz around the Otahuhu College product, a local boy coming back to the Warriors in the prime of his career. You could feel it in Otara at the Warriors' community event on Thursday, and he was mobbed today in Aotea Square at the Nines fan day.

"He's a superstar of our game," said former Warrior and current Sea Eagle Feleti Mateo. "You can understand the excitement ... the expectation around the Warriors from everyone. A guy like Roger brings a lot to any team but he'll also help take some pressure off Shaun [Johnson]."

Today is the first look at the Johnson-Tuivasa-Sheck combination, part of the new Warriors' all-star spine. It might take some time for the two to click, but they are on their way.

"We are learning about each other," said Johnson. "You build on it every day. [Today] is different because it is Nines, but it all counts towards the main goal."

Tuivasa-Sheck came close to signing with the Warriors in 2011, before the Roosters came in with a last ditch offer to trump his home town team. After four years of learning his trade in Bondi, today is the first chapter of his homecoming.

"I was excited to come back," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "It was the next step. Now the hard work starts but it's an exciting challenge ... you always want to improve yourself as a player."

The Warriors face the Bulldogs first up today (12.20pm), with Greg Eastwood leading the Sydney side for the first time. The long time Kiwi admits he was "tearing up" when he missed out on the end of season tour to England last year, but has used it as motivation during a prolonged pre-season.

"I want to get back in the Kiwis, that's the pinnacle," said Eastwood. "But it all starts with club form, you have to earn it."

The Bulldogs have some name players in the forwards but are missing almost their entire first choice backline, making the Warriors clash a tough assignment.

"Let's hope we catch them cold first up," joked Eastwood. "Otherwise it's not going to be fun chasing Roger and Shaun around Eden Park."

The Warriors face the Sea Eagles at 6.15pm, one of 17 matches tomorrow, before their final pool game against the Broncos (12.40pm) on Sunday. It makes Sunday a logistical challenge, with four games scheduled for both of the eventual finalists.

"We'll have to manage ourselves carefully but it is all part of it," said Johnson. The club will take a wait and see approach with their halfback, and his minutes may be restricted across the two days.

As well as the Nines action, the Kiwi Ferns will continue their longstanding rivalry with the Jillaroos tomorrow.

Their games last year were arguably some of the most compelling action across the weekend, and they have the first of three clashes at 4pm.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 24 Mar 2017 00:39:19 Processing Time: 570ms