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Behind the coffee catch-up that lured RTS back to the Warriors

After he'd spent years listening to countless grand plans and proclamations from Warriors coaches which never eventuated, it's little wonder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was initially sceptical about Andrew Webster's new vision for the club.

A signing target from almost the second Webster touched down in Auckland to become the new head coach last year, at first Tuivasa-Sheck turned down the Warriors' attempts to bring him back to Go Media Stadium and ingested their sales pitch with a grain of salt.

"[Webster] said 'Rog, we're going to be a team that competes, going to be a team that turns up for each other'," Tuivasa-Sheck recalls of conversations at the back end of 2022.

"I go 'Webby, I've heard this before, tell me what's different?'.

"If you put yourself in my shoes I had been here since 2016 – probably had three or four coaches and different managers who had sold me the same thing – 'we're going to do A, B and C to get this title' and each year it goes up and then we lose that coach."

But when faced with the choice between heading back to the club who he won a Dally M Medal with in 2018, or moving to Japan to take up a two-year rugby union deal, Tuivasa-Sheck went straight to the source to work out if there was anything tangible attached to the words he was hearing.

During a catch up with Tohu Harris and Jazz Tevaga in December – which now will go down as one of the most important meetings in the club's 28-year history – the dual-code international went looking for evidence that there was something tangible he could trust.

"I said 'OK, let's sit down and have a coffee and just tell me one thing; do I just go, go to Japan and take off and see what happens? Or do I come back, is there something [good here]?'.

"They both looked to each other and said 'bro, there's something here'.

"That got me excited, so I then had another catch up with Webby and made the decision to come back.

"Hopefully in the next couple of years something special happens."

Over the next few months – before his return to the Warriors on a three-year deal from 2024 was announced publicly – RTS watched in awe as he saw a team displaying the type of values he'd long wished to see from more of his teammates at the club.

Those values never disappeared either, with the Warriors finishing one game short of the decider in one of their most successful seasons on record.

"It got me excited watching the first couple of pre-season games and seeing a few different attitudes, boys wanting to defend the goal line, boys playing in yardage," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"I'd watch the games and kick chase, defence, goal-line defence, that's all attitude there. If you see that and see that this guy's made a wrong decision, but his man next to him has covered for him, he's busted his arse [to save his mate], I love that.

"I want to go and compete next to players like that."

Remembering Roger: The best of RTS

Almost a month into his pre-season campaign, Tuivasa-Sheck said he's making plenty of mistakes at training – which he sees as a good thing – and is feeling the physical impacts of a tougher conditioning period than he's dealt with in recent years.

Despite the 30-year-old saying things remain "up in the air" regarding where he'll line up in 2024, Webster said the plan remains to convert him into a centre, with the potential he could play on the wing too.

The only position out of the question according to the second-year coach is fullback, with Tuivasa-Sheck currently the third choice there behind Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Taine Tuaupiki.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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