Whether the quest to keep Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in Warriors colours beyond 2018 succeeds will ultimately be a collective effort, insists the club’s assistant coach Tony Iro.
With the off-contract star being courted by rugby union and other NRL clubs, the talk about the future of the man known as “RTS” will continue until he puts pen to paper.
“Roger is a marquee guy who we want to stick around with the club because he is the captain, a good leader and he is only going to grow in that role because he is still young,” Iro told NRL.com.
“There is also an understanding that individuals will have reasons to do what they want to.
“As a club we have to be doing the best we can, firstly as a team and building a culture where players like Roger want to stay.
“If that is successful, then the rest looks after itself. I don’t think we are going into the season just thinking about how we can make Roger stay. That is up to the whole organisation in making it a place and environment where people don’t want to leave.”
The speculation surrounding a possible Tuivasa-Sheck move to rugby’s Auckland Blues was associated with the allure of a gig with the All Blacks and a Rugby World Cup berth in 2019.
The All Blacks are a powerful and ever-present force in New Zealand life and culture but Iro doesn’t lay awake at night worrying about losing players to the rugby union powerhouse.
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t really think about it,” Iro said.
“Yeah, I imagine the All Blacks are an attraction but you have got to be a pretty special athlete to first of all be presented with the opportunity, and then make the most of it.
“The games aren’t as close as what people think. I know the best athletes can transition but until you make the jump, and it is usually a big jump, you are going into the unknown and there will always be that element of risk.
“Is it an issue? I don’t call it an issue because the number of players going across has been limited. Sonny Bill [Williams] is obviously one who has made a strong transition into both but he was a pretty special athlete and there aren’t too many built like him.”
Former Kwi international Gary Freeman saw signs last year that Tuivasa-Sheck was ready to return to his best after a knee injury ruined his 2016 season.
“It takes a full year to get back to your best from a full knee reconstruction, but in the last five or six games of last year, and for the Kiwis, I saw signs in Roger of what he is going to be like this year, Freeman said.
“The way he was running the football back suggested he was 10 or 15 per cent off his best, but after a full pre-season under his belt he will be primed for round one. I think he is going to have a cracker of a season.”
Iro agreed with Freeman’s assessment, suggesting Tuivasa-Sheck’s battles were not restricted to the physical elements.
“When you suffer from an ACL there is a timeframe where not just the body, but also the mind has got to heal as well,” Iro said.
“Roger is training great at the moment and he looks and sounds really driven, which is him anyway, but I think he is looking to really do something after what has been a pretty disappointing two seasons for him, and that is rubbing off on the group.
“I think that some of the bodies we have put around him like Blake Green, Adam Blair and Tohu Harris are just as driven.
“They have come from successful environments and their impact on the group has been really good.
“That will take some pressure off Roger too because he has some real genuine voices there who are talking the same language, and as a young captain that will help him immensely.”