A bombshell deal to bring talismanic New Zealand Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back to rugby union could be completed within a week.
The Herald understands a deal is looking likely for Tuivasa-Sheck to walk away from league after the 2021 season — and sign a contract with New Zealand Rugby with the goal of representing the All Blacks at the 2023 World Cup.
The code switch, first reported by Australia's Daily Telegraph, is yet to be concluded, but sources have confirmed to the Herald that discussions are under way and while there are still factors to be worked out, negotiations are likely to end in the 27-year-old star moving to the 15-man code.
Tuivasa-Sheck's name has been linked to rugby before, but it appears now the timing is right, with the star fullback set to play out the NRL campaign with the Warriors — his million-dollar contract for 2022 has a player option — before moving to rugby, where the Blues, who he played for as a junior, would be hot favourites for his signature.
The 2018 Dally M winner spent a period this summer training with the All Blacks Sevens, and previously admitted to considering jumping ship to rugby before the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
"It was close," Tuivasa-Sheck told the Herald at the time. "I really did enjoy the game and being in New Zealand it's rugby 24/7 here, so there was a lot of noise about going over.
"I didn't [dismiss the idea]. I really enjoyed the Lions tour. That looked amazing, to play on that stage.
"Definitely we had a few discussions about it but at the end of the day I had to weigh it all up and I chose rugby league."
Now, it seems like he is making the move, with it understood that New Zealand Rugby would require Tuivasa-Sheck to switch codes before 2022 — giving him the potential of two Super Rugby seasons — to be a possibility of World Cup selection.
Losing their inspirational skipper after this season would be a cruel blow to the Warriors and new coach Nathan Brown, especially after Tuivasa-Sheck's efforts leading the team during their enforced stay in Australia last season.
Tuivasa-Sheck was the only player whose family didn't join him in Australia in 2020,
and he found it tough away from partner Ashley Walker, and their young children Amara, aged 3, and Nico, 1, who started crawling when Tuivasa-Sheck was leading the Warriors overseas.
"Oh man, I think about going home all the time, especially when I'm watching a milestone like that on my phone," Tuivasa-Sheck said last season.
"Just [the idea of] being with my kids and being with my partner."
Tuivasa-Sheck again had to say goodbye to his family last month as the Warriors headed for another Australian trip of undetermined length, though his family are set to join him next month in Terrigal.
That is now set to be his last season with the Warriors, following in the footsteps of the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall in making a high-profile switch from the top of league in an effort to make the All Blacks.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the Warriors have told Tuivasa-Sheck they "won't stand in his way of an early exit" but that his contract will have a clause inserted stating that he must return to the Warriors, should he play in the NRL again.