New Zealand Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was handed a golden opportunity to return home, but he put his teammates first.
The Warriors skipper won't play their final game of the NRL season against the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday after injuring his hamstring in their loss to the Canberra Raiders.
It left the fullback with a tough ultimatum – stay or go. Tuivasa-Sheck is the only player within the team that has not seen his family since departing New Zealand for New South Wales in May, making for a doubly arduous stay in Australia.
Those four months have been filtered with video calls with his partner Ash Walker and two children which, while comforting, are far from an ideal family arrangement.
Surprisingly, the club managed to find a flight for Tuivasa-Sheck to board and return home to New Zealand and reunite with loved ones.
"We floated the subject with him and he was adamant that he wanted to stay, and that sort of typifies the type of leader he is," coach Todd Payten says. "I said he should think about it for at least 24 hours and he was adamant the next day that he wanted to stay."
A move back to New Zealand would likely have been met with understanding from all angles, given what Tuivasa-Sheck and his team have sacrificed to keep the NRL season afloat for 2020. Payten is confident players would have shared such a view.
"I reckon if the players knew they would've encouraged him to get on the plane," he says.
"He's been tremendous, Rog. He didn't have a great game on the weekend but for all his sacrifices and the personal strain it put on him, he led this club magnificently."
Despite rumours, it will not be the last time the Warriors will see Tuivasa-Sheck in their strip. Tuivasa-Sheck's manager Bruce Sharrock confirmed to the Herald he will remain at the club in 2021, despite being linked with a sensational switch to rugby union.
Following the reports resurfacing, club CEO Cameron George and Sharrock met on Monday morning. Sharrock said Tuivasa-Sheck, like all athletes globally, is ploughing through a restrictive pandemic.
Tuivasa-Sheck and his family have already committed to moving to Australia in 2021 should the Warriors be based there again as well.
While the Warriors are out of finals contention, Sunday marks their final game under Payten and could be the last for a number of players believed to be departing the club.
No Tuivasa-Sheck for this weekend will rid the Warriors of a leader and game-breaking presence, but they will still be able to appreciate his wisdom in the lead-up, as well as boast a worthy replacement. Peta Hiku will wear the No 1 jersey.
Warriors team to play Sea Eagles: 1. Peta Hiku 2. Adam Pompey 3. Adam Keighran 4. Hayze Perham 5. Patrick Herbert 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Chanel Harris-Tavita 8. Lachlan Burr 9. Karl Lawton 10. Isaiah Papali'i 11. Eliesa Katoa 12. Tohu Harris 13. Jazz Tevaga
Interchange (from): 14. Wayde Egan 15. Adam Blair 16. Jack Murchie 17. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 18. Josh Curran 20. Paul Turner 21. Gerard Beale 22. Tom Ale