Reports emerged yesterday that Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck could make a shock exit from the embattled NRL club. NZME rugby league writer Christopher Reive looks at why a code-switch could make sense.
The 2020 NRL season was, ideally, going to be a one-time thing.
The Warriors agreed to uproot themselves for the green pastures of Terrigal for the good of the game, kissing their loved ones goodbye at the airport knowing it would be months before they would meet again.
While eventually some players' families were able to join them across the ditch, others were unable to get travel exemptions. A handful of players have since returned home as a result, but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck remains abroad.
Interim head coach Todd Payten pointed out last week Tuivasa-Sheck is the only player in the team environment now who hasn't been able to bring his family over.
"I'm going alright," Tuivasa-Sheck said during a media opportunity last week. "I've been getting a lot of heartfelt messages lately from people checking in.
"I keep saying to everyone I'm pretty lucky to have a strong woman back at home and she's got good support around her. She's raising the babies really well and I'm just happy to be here doing my job to help her and the kids back home."
When asked about the possibility of playing in Australia again next year, he responded: "I haven't looked too far past this week. All I'm focused on is daily calls back home and focusing on the job at hand."
A week later and reports from the Daily Telegraph suggest the Warriors captain has since looked into next year and ways he can stay close to home; with a code switch to playing rugby with the Blues said to be a possibility. Tuivasa-Sheck was a star in the 1st XV at Otahuhu College in his day, representing the New Zealand schoolboys' team, and has spoken about his desire to one day be an All Blacks in the past.
While there may well be more at play, the motivating factor in any potential move is said to be spending time with his family. The report brought out two crowds: those who read it, saw his position and responded with understanding; and those who saw the headline and reacted to it. Standard practice for this day and age.
Warriors teammate Kodi Nikorima brought doubt to the reports, commenting on a Fox League Instagram post: "Can confirm Tuivasa- Schnaaack is staying put", while a Blues spokesperson told the Herald they had no knowledge of any dealings surrounding Tuivasa-Sheck.
But could you blame him if the opportunity is indeed there?
Since joining the Warriors in 2016, Tuivasa-Sheck has lived up to his billing as one of the best players in the game. The one consistent thing about the Warriors over the past five seasons has been the high level of Tuivasa-Sheck's play and work ethic.
But for the 27-year-old, and no doubt plenty of his teammates, having to move across the Tasman for months to be able to do his job is not what he signed up for when he joined the club. Yes, the circumstances have been unavoidable this year, but the fact remains.
For everything Tuivasa-Sheck has given to the Warriors, and all the crap he's been subject to as a result of the team's poor results over the past couple of seasons in particular, he's shown time and time again that he's a team man.
But professional sport is a business. Like any other day job, if you're unhappy you look for other opportunities. If the Warriors are forced to play solely in Australia again in 2021, and an opportunity presented itself elsewhere where he could play some footy and be at home with his partner and two young children, it's a no-brainer, right?
Family comes first.