Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has thrown down the gauntlet to Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco ahead of Saturday's NRL clash at Allianz Stadium.
Tuivasa-Sheck admits his match-up with Tedesco is personal as he looks to measure himself against one of the best fullbacks in the game and maintain the Warriors unbeaten start to the season with a win over his former club.
The 24-year-old last year rated the former Wests Tigers No1 as the third best fullback in the NRL and three days out from the game was full of praise for Tedesco's all-round ability.
"He's a freakish player," Tuivasa-Sheck said.
"I'm a massive fan of the way he moves and his footwork, agility and positioning, so I'm looking forward to going up against him.
"He's a top-four fullback and I'm looking forward to going up against him."
Many players are reluctant to bait their opponent and try to downplay the significance of personal contests, but Tuivasa-Sheck says he is driven each week to get one over his opposite number.
The Kiwis international joked that he didn't make the cut on his own list of the game's best fullbacks, but his stunning early season form has him leading the votes for the Dally M, along with with Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary and Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop.
After three rounds he is also ranked second in the NRL for linebreaks (four), second in run metres (542m), second for all runs (62), second for line-break assists (four), and second for try-assists (four).
"No, I just missed the list," he said. "I do [like to make things personal]. I always like to battle against the best and that's the only way I feel I can improve, if I have a personal battle.
"At the end of the game I'll talk to my coach about how I went against other players."
His strong defence has also been a highlight of the early rounds with Tuivasa-Sheck producing some jaw-dropping try-saving tackles near the line in wins over the Rabbitohs, Titans, and Raiders.
After denying both Souths fullback Alex Johnstone and Canberra playmaker Aidan Sezer from scoring what appeared to be certain four-pointers, he leapt to his feet and celebrated with gusto to try and lift his teammates, while also reminding the opposition of a missed opportunity.
Tuivasa-Sheck says personal pride made improving his defence a key focus throughout the pre-season and says he is feeding off the team's marked shift in attitude this season.
"It was something I wanted to work on big time. I was embarrassing a couple of years ago, but it was something I really wanted to step up and there's a massive switch in attitude as well.
"There's a total buy-in, all the boys just want to do their job really well."
The Otahuhu College product is excited at the prospect of playing against the club he tasted premiership success with in 2013, having enjoyed two memorable wins in his previous games against the Tri-Colours.
In his first match against the Roosters in 2016, he scored the match-wining try in golden point to give the Warriors a 32-28 victory at Gosford, while last year he produced back-to-back tackles in one movement to prevent Roosters hooker Jake Friend and then fullback Michael Gordon from crossing in a hard-fought 14-13 win at Mt Smart Stadium.
After getting their campaign off to a flying start, the Bondi club will give the Warriors a true gauge on where they rank ahead of home games against both the Cowboys and Broncos.
"I'm excited to go over there and play at Allianz. It's a special thing to play my former teammates.
"I grew some great bonds with the Roosters, the club and the players, so I'm looking forward to seeing them, but firstly hope to get the two points.
"They're a top four team so they're the type of team that we are aiming to play against and be on their level.
"We believe in what we've got so we're looking forward to going over there and seeing what we've got against them."
Sydney Roosters v Warriors at Allianz Stadium, 7.30pm Saturday
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Reece Robinson 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Isaac Liu 14. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Mitchell Aubusson 17. Victor Radley 18. Nat Butcher 19. Kurt Baptiste 20. Mitchell Cornish 21. Lindsay Collins
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Leivaha Pulu 12. Tohu Harris 13. Adam Blair 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Ligi Sao 16. Chris Satae 17. Bunty Afoa 18. Mason Lino 20. Anthony Gelling 21. Albert Vete 22. Charnze Nicoll-klokstad
Referees: Henry Perenara, Ashley Klein.
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