ROGER TUIVASA- SHECK
great names in New Zealand rugby league. Olsen Filipaina went there. So too, Ali Lauiti’iti and a smattering of Ropatis (Joe, Tea and Iva).
And it’s where, in 2011, Tuivasa-sheck was forced into the kind of decision familiar to only the most gifted; that most New Zealand of dilemmas: rugby? Or league?
Complicating the issue was that he was brilliant at both. A member of the Otahuhuˉ College First XV, he went on to play for the New Zealand Secondary Schools – a team that was led by current All Black Ardie Savea. But then a horrible thing happened. The rugby season ended.
He laughs about it now. “My dad used to really get frustrated with me. I was playing First XV right up until the end of the season. But our season ended and there was a national tournament for league, so I jumped in and played that.”
“Played” is one way of putting it. Being the outstanding player in the Otahuhuˉ College team which won the tournament is another. Yet in no small way, the school’s success steered Tuivasa-sheck away from rugby for good. “It was tough for me, because my dad’s a rugby man at heart. But I just felt like every time I played league, I performed well.”
You can imagine it can’t you? Talented kid. Rising star. World at his feet. And smart enough to know he needed someone to help him navigate the muddy waters and the sharks. “I needed a manager, so my dad went out and found [Esportif ’s] Bruce Sharrock. Eventually my dad was like, ‘What do you want to play? Rugby or rugby league?’ Because he felt like it was getting to the business end and it was time for me to choose a path.
“So we had a meeting with Bruce, and when the question came up, I was so young and giggly about it and I sort of put my head down and go, ‘Oh I want to play league.’ And I looked at my dad thinking that he’d be disappointed, but he wasn’t. He was so happy. Happy because it was my decision.”
——— Johnny Tuivasa-sheck is still a personal trainer and lives in Sydney – living in a house made possible by his son. It’s a big house and it needs to be; home also to Roger’s mother Lisha, sisters Krystal and Shirley and little brother Johnny, a rising star at the Roosters. That contract, however large, is making a difference on both sides of the Tasman.
Tuivasa-sheck knows in his heart that this year he and his team could be on the verge of something truly special, something Warriors fans no longer dare to even say out loud. There’s still work to do, but after all those years away he’s clearly heading somewhere. But neither has he forgotten where he’s from. ●
“It was tough for me, because my dad’s a rugby man at heart. But I just felt like every time I played league, I performed well.”