Like he has done for most of this season, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck produced the perfect response in a difficult situation on Tuesday.
At the club's weekly media session, the Warriors captain was repeatedly questioned about
his chances of being named the Dally M player of the year, after Sydney bookmakers installed him as third favourite to win the coveted award, behind Damian Cook (Rabbitohs) and Kalyn Ponga (Cowboys).
The Dally M has recognised the top player from the regular season since 1980. Gary Freeman (Roosters, 1992) and Jason Taumalolo (joint winner, Cowboys, 2016) are the only previous Kiwis to have picked up the gong.
It's deserving of some hype – as no Warrior has ever received the honour – but Tuivasa-Sheck wasn't buying into any of it, instead managing the kind of sidestep that has repeatedly befuddled defenders in 2018.
He played a straight bat to several questions around his recent scintillating form, and gave a polite "I've got no comment on that" when asked about the Dally M speculation.
It's typical of the 25-year-old, and good news for Warriors fans.
Despite his fabulous deeds of the past month, in a standout campaign, Tuivasa-Sheck is determined to stay focussed, wary of letting anything knock him off track.
"Dad keeps texting me about that," said Tuivasa-Sheck, of the recent fanfare around possible individual honours and his form.
"[He says] 'get your head out of the papers, get your head away from that stuff'"."All that stuff doesn't matter if you don't perform...one bad performance [and] no one really cares anymore."
As a club, the Warriors have an unfortunate history of getting ahead of themselves, with a tendency to trip up before the final bend, and the skipper is doing all he can to guard against that.
"We are playing some good footy and the boys are enjying the vibes around the club," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "But we have had moments like the Gold Coast game. We keep looking back at [that]. We didn't go so well, so having that in the back of our mind we need to stay focussed as we look to what is coming."
Tuivasa-Sheck has had a remarkable month. He ran for 338 metres on Friday night – possibly the most at Mt Smart since the days of milers John Walker and Steve Scott in the 1980s – following hauls of 239 metres versus the Dragons, 160 on the Gold Coast and 229 against the Storm.
"I'd be surprised if he's not in the running for [the Dally M] with the crazy stats he's putting up, they're through the roof," said teammate Shaun Johnson." [But] his influence on the group in terms of competing on every play, fighting for every bit he gets...that's probably the biggest thing as a teammate we take from him. He's always growing, always looking to get better."
Tuivasa-Sheck will make his 50th NRL appearance for the Warriors against Bulldogs on Sunday and is likely to lead out an unchanged side. Coach Stephen Kearney has named the same 17 that beat the Knights 20-4, though second rower Leivaha Pulu will need to pass a fitness test on a foot complaint. Tohu Harris (knee) wasn't included, though he is a possibility to return for next week's clash with the Panthers.
WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
2.00pm, Sunday, August 19, 2018
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c)
2 David Fusitu'a
3 Gerard Beale
4 Solomone Kata
5 Ken Maumalo
6 Blake Green
7 Shaun Johnson
8 James Gavet
9 Issac Luke
10 Agnatius Paasi
11 Isaiah Papali'i
12 Adam Blair
13 Simon Mannering
14 Jazz Tevaga
15 Leivaha Pulu
16 Bunty Afoa
17 Peta Hiku
18 Joseph Vuna
20 Anthony Gelling
21 Chris Satae
22 Karl Lawton