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Ken Stephen Medal: RTS leadership shines in testing time

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck went almost five months being in a different country from his young family, but the Warriors captain still considered himself fortunate.

Without his team's commitment to basing themselves in Australia from May to late September, first in Tamworth and then on the Central Coast, the NRL may not have been able to restart after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the competition to halt.

Everyone in the Warriors' bubble - players and staff - made huge sacrifices for the good of the game and Tuivasa-Sheck was no exception, missing milestones like his son starting to crawl.

For helping to lead the New Zealand club through an unprecedented situation, providing inspiration and hope to many in the process, Tuivasa-Sheck was already a worthy nominee for the Ken Stephen Medal - proudly brought to you by My Property Consultants.

But the star fullback has always been about community.

"For me, helping people and spending time with them is a natural thing to do. It's the way I was brought up," he said.

"Throughout my life people have done so much for me and for our family. I love giving back."

Tuivasa-Sheck said he hadn't yet taken in the enormity of what the Warriors achieved during the 2020 season.

It's a blessing to be doing this job.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

"I haven't really reflected yet but maybe I will when we're on our break," he said.

"All I'm thinking about is trying to escape from rugby league and from the world a bit just to be with my family, to get a break mentally and physically and be present at home.

"I'm sure I'll be reflecting at some stage, probably be sitting there with the family going over things.

"Everyone will want to know what went down, how was this and how was that ... telling them a few different stories.

"It hasn't been easy but the way I looked at it, I was in Terrigal with the whole group to work and this is the role that I play for my family. It's a blessing to be doing this job.

"I know so many good people who aren't working back home or who have been laid off, so I'm just lucky for the opportunity."

Before leaving for the stay in Australia, Tuivasa-Sheck gave a young fan named Rocco, who plays for his junior club Otahuhu Leopards, an incredible surprise by going to his house and driving him to training.

The 2018 Dally M Medallist also did a Q&A on Zoom with the Erina Eagles under 14s while in camp in Terrigal.

"It's always cool being with kids, seeing their smiles and talking to them. It takes me back to how it was back in the day for me and how it is from year to year for kids," he said.

"I really love going out to my old club. So many memories there. That day I picked up Rocco to take him to training was an awesome experience. He was just so excited."

 

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The 27-year-old's kind and generous nature has shone on visits to a Ronald McDonald House in New Zealand where he's interacted with patients and their families.

He even cooked and served a roast meal on one occasion.

"It's really rewarding and humbling ... You realise they've got their challenges but you wouldn't know it the way they respond," he said.

"They're so grateful you're there talking to them, having photos taken with them and they loved us cooking for them."

While Tuivasa-Sheck's leadership is to be applauded, he humbly deflected praise onto the people around him at the Warriors.

"If you've got a group like ours who are just so positive … they kept me going," he said.

"I was really proud of the way everyone turned up to training and turned up to our day-to-day stuff, just being positive and enjoying our time here.

"Early on we accepted that we were there to do a job. Everyone bought into it, enjoyed their time and ripped in which was what I liked to see.

"It was difficult at times like it is in any family but we worked through all of that.

"Being nominated for this [Ken Stephen Medal] award is a huge honour but it really isn’t about me.

"I see this being about the whole team, about our players and our staff. Everyone has been amazing with the way they've supported each other and the way we've connected as a big family and got through this together." 

An example of the giving nature of the Warriors club is their latest initiative - a funding boost for junior rugby league on both sides of the Tasman as part of its drive to become the most-supported sports organisation in Australasia for 2020.

"The 2020 season has tested us in many ways but there’s one more goal we’re keen to achieve and that’s to break the record for the largest official supporter base of any Australasian sports club in 2020," said CEO Cameron George.

"We see clubs in Australia with supporter bases in excess of 100,000 and we want to finish ahead of that to close out a year that has demanded that we challenge ourselves."

All in: Inside the Warriors' 2020 season

To realise this goal, the club has launched a $10 Warriors Supporter offer for October with $5 from each purchase being returned to rugby league associations.

Half of the proceeds will be spread across junior programs at clubs in the Central Coast, Redcliffe, Tamworth and Tenterfield Juniors, as well as the NZRL’s seven zones.

The Vodafone Warriors Supporter offer gives subscribers a 10% discount on merchandise purchases through the Warriors Super Store (https://shop.warriorsstore.co.nz) as well advance access to news, team announcements and season previews.

Priced from just NZ$10 plus GST, the offer is available for purchase at https://www.warriors.kiwi/membership until October 31.