He has yet to enter his last ruck but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looks back on his time in rugby with mixed feelings.
The code convert, set to rejoin the Warriors next season after two years in the 15-man game, is “stuck between satisfied and unsatisfied” as he prepares for his final NPC campaign with Auckland.
Tuivasa-Sheck has no regrets about making the switch, regarding with pride a stint that saw him earn three caps with the All Blacks while playing 18 games for the Blues.
But after a career spent at the elite end of league, Tuivasa-Sheck was never content with the rugby player he became.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” he told Newstalk ZB’s Jason Pine. “I’m satisfied with the people and the achievements I’ve made here, but I’m unsatisfied in the way that for me as a person, as a player, I really would love to have done a lot better.
“It’s been really enjoyable with the people I’ve met, and of course to don the black jersey, the Blues jersey and my Auckland side, I’m pretty proud about that.”
That pride, however, doesn’t disguise the disappointment Tuivasa-Sheck also feels when regarding an ultimately unsuccessful quest to forge a rugby path like the one he blazed in league.
Adapting to second five-eighth after playing wing and fullback in the NRL, Tuivasa-Sheck knew he never quite mastered the intricacies of the position, leaving him struggling to replicate the game-breaking impact for which he had become known.
“For many years I’ve been known to be that guy that’s been at the top of my game and I’ve always been the person that’s the go-to,” he said. “So it was going from that guy to rookie, and being the guy that’s always getting it wrong, and being the guy that could have been a lot better.
“I needed to work harder at it, and I always knew that time was against me, but I just had to hold my standard and say, no, I’m gonna be the best. And unfortunately I wasn’t the best. That’s why I feel dissatisfied.”
His propensity for hard work was never in question by those around Tuivasa-Sheck at his rugby teams, but the 30-year-old wondered now whether it had been applied in the right areas.
“That’s how I put it down – the only way for you to be rewarded or get what you want is the work that you put in. Maybe I worked hard on different aspects of my game that I shouldn’t have been, and I should have been at a different craft.
“So there’s a lot of things that I put it down to. Time wasn’t my friend in this code, but that’s all good. I’m satisfied in some parts.
“I’m very pleased that I came over, because I’ve met some really awesome people that I know I’ll keep in contact with for a long time. I achieved a childhood dream and, yes, I’m definitely happy that I made the switch over.”
After his impending switch back to the Warriors was announced, there was some suggestion Tuivasa-Sheck could seek an early release from his NZ Rugby contract and rejoin the NRL club midseason. But while he acknowledged that prospect had been tempting, he was happy to have remained and now focused on a fun farewell with Auckland.
“When I wasn’t getting my way at the Blues or getting selected, I mostly would have wanted to go, but I stuck it out because I’ve signed with the Warriors for the next three years and I know it’s there,” he said. “I’m on the other end of my career and I’ve got to cherish every year now, every contract I’ve got to cherish, because I’m 30 now, I’m not getting younger so just taking my time and enjoying my time here.”
Tuivasa-Sheck is preparing to at least start the NPC season playing fullback, before a likely shift into the centres with the Warriors next year. He was targeting a title with Auckland to end on a high – and backing his former and future team to potentially achieve similar honours.
“Top four, for sure,” he said of the Warriors’ prospects. “I was looking across and saying, ‘Why do I need to go, they’re killing it’. They definitely do not need me.”