Roger Tuivasa-Sheck admits he is feeling the pinch.

The Warriors' skipper remains as upbeat as ever, but the weight on his shoulders has been immense in 2019.

As well as trying to maintain his own remarkably high standards, he has been searching everywhere for ways to inspire his team, to find the extra edge that can convert them from nearly men to contenders.

He's still a relative captaincy novice – 53 NRL games as skipper – but has a greater burden than most, with the club having to find ways to lessen the load.


"It has had its ups and downs," said Tuivasa-Sheck, ahead of Saturday's NRL Magic Round clash with the Dragons. "Sometimes I face it and I get a lot of joy seeing other players face it with me and we all can grow. It's the challenge, it's going to be tough and I knew what I was signing up for."

The last two months have probably been Tuivasa-Sheck's toughest period since he was anointed figurehead of the club.

The 2017 season was tough – especially for a 23-year-old as a new skipper – but there wasn't the same expectation around the team, and he had former captains Simon Mannering and Ryan Hoffman to lean on.

After the historic 2018 finals run, the Warriors were expected to improve, or at least consolidate on that campaign this year. So far it has been neither, with the equal worst start to a season after eight games.

Tuivasa-Sheck has been carrying that weight.

With the departure of Shaun Johnson, the Otahuhu College product is the main X factor player on attack. As well as being the leader on and off the field, the 25-year-old also has a new play making responsibility, as well as his intense game day work load.

He's responded, with four tries, four try assists, eight line breaks, 39 tackle busts and 160 running metres per game – but how much more can he give?

"The whole purpose of me being here was the challenge," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "It's unfortunately not going my way at the moment but I will still turn up and get the job done as best as I can because it is a challenge, and I enjoy it. Whatever the team throws at me, I put my hand up for it."


But it has been hard. Captaining the Warriors has burnt out people before – Mannering, Hoffman, even Steve Price got worn down by the job.

"The toughest part is trying to find the solution, more than the pressure," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "I really enjoy [that] everyone is coming against us, everyone doesn't back us. I enjoy that, being the underdog and trying to prove people wrong…and making sure that as a group, we stay tight, and we come out the other side."

Tuivasa-Sheck has cast the net wide for advice on leadership and team culture, including session with two All Black icons.

"I'm constantly looking at other sports," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "Last year I was able to catch up with Richie McCaw and chat with Kieran Read. There is someone who looks after the leadership group who I am constantly talking to as well."

"[I'm] trying to read different things, talk to different people, what's a way I can get the boys up. At the moment it's just trying to inspire the boys to pull out the effort every single day, every single week. That's the plan this weekend, just inspire, motivate them and get out there and do the work for each other like they did in the Melbourne game."

Coach Stephen Kearney denies that the team is over-reliant on Tuivasa-Sheck, but admits that the playing group haven't done enough to support their skipper.

"He takes a lot on in the footy team and I guess it builds up," said Kearney. "We have been getting really close, but not good enough. So that builds on your shoulders. He is the type of captain that certainly wears that…through his actions and the way he goes about his business.

"Collectively I don't think we have done a real good job, in helping him. The last four weeks, we have put ourselves right in the contest but haven't been quite good enough. Whether that has been lack of confidence, lack of co-ordination at the back end of the game…it builds up on you…it has been building up on him."

Tuivasa-Sheck has a packed schedule – with daily 7:30am leader's meetings, field and gym sessions, team gatherings and media commitments – but the club is doing what it can to mitigate the situation.

"We have been trying," said Kearney. "We pull him out of a bit of training. We try to get other guys to assume responsibility for team previews and reviews. He has a leadership group that helps him."

"Not everything is lumped on Roger [but] when you have guys that have been out probably that little bit extra jumps on his shoulders."

Throughout his team's struggles this year, it's been hard to criticize Tuivasa-Sheck. He's generally been impressive, while many others have fluctuated between rocks and diamonds.

"It's about making sure the boys are staying connected," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "We can easily go our separate ways with the way we are going but it's about turning up, going out there and, putting on a performance."