Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has confirmed he will leave the New Zealand Warriors to take up rugby in 2022.
The NRL superstar today confirmed reports of his stunning code switch, with the 27-year-old to be released from his Warriors contract at the end of the 2021 NRL season to move to the 15-man game.
He has yet to sign with a franchise, with the Blues understood to be the hot favourites for his signature as he attempts to make the All Blacks ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Tuivasa-Sheck said his desire to move back to rugby has been long held.
"It's always been there. It's no secret. It's been popping up in the news here and there because rugby has been a game that I grew up playing and rugby is where I started my junior footy - playing rugby right through. So it's always been there in the background.
"To do it now at a time like this and to have the club support, that's why I chose to do it now."
Warriors chief executive Cameron George confirmed that the club would release Tuivasa-Sheck from the final year of his million-dollar contract in 2022 to allow him to move to rugby at the end of the 2021 campaign.
George said the club had been working with Tuivasa-Sheck on the move for some time, after the Warriors captain came to the decision a few months ago.
"Yesterday afternoon, the club was able to consider and finalise a number of matters pertaining to those stories [in the media].
"This ain't a bombshell for the club. We've been discussing this for a number of weeks now so the important thing for us was to respectfully explore the options with Roger, understand what his desires were. And at the end of the day, Roger's earned the respect from the club to come forward and sit with us and determine the decision that we have come to.
"We wish Roger all the best in 2022 and beyond ... It's really galvanised the squad here in what is extremely difficult circumstances, being away from home and a different environment. As a club we're comfortable with it. Roger deserves this opportunity."
While the All Blacks is the goal, Tuivasa-Sheck knows that there is a hard road ahead.
"I've been getting a lot of people saying 'you're going to the All Blacks' but that's a bit disrespectful to a brand like that. My whole thing is just to go back and play rugby.
"You don't just walk into a brand like the All Blacks. You've got to earn your way in. First is just having a crack at it. And as I said, I grew up playing rugby so it's just going back and having a crack at it."
He also acknowledges the difficulties of leaving a club – and teammates - close to his heart.
"It is tough. I've put a lot into this club and this club has given me a lot too. Hopefully I can finish off on a high and we can all as a club finish on a high. Hopefully they can continue to support and follow me wherever I go.
"[My teammates] have been awesome and supporting me. There'll be a few jokes here and there for a few weeks but they've been awesome. I fronted them before. We got a tip about how it was going to be announced in the media. So I wished that we could've announced it proper and let them know first in a better way but the boys have been real good and supportive. They're keen to make it happen this year and I'm all in with them.
"This club is special to my heart. I love being here and I love the family vibe that we have here. So just to let the team know and the club know, and now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'm ready to just bang in and focus and earn it for this club."