Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's final NRL season drew to an early close as he flew out of Australia to rejoin his whānau in New Zealand, just before the grace period for returning New Zealanders from Australia expired owing to Covid-19.
Tuivasa-Sheck left his Queensland hotel with fellow player Leeson Ah Mau, flanked by current Warriors teammates and past players from other clubs as the two men headed out to their vehicle.
The haka Ka Mate was then performed by a number of Warriors and other players to thank both men for their contribution to the club.
Roger & Leeson farewelled by teammates. Credit: Facebook / Vodafone Warriors
Tuivasa-Sheck had previously suffered a concussion during the Warriors-Panthers encounter on July 17. When it was announced that the Trans-Tasman bubble would be suspended for eight weeks, a one-week grace period was established for any New Zealanders who wanted to return. As a result, the Warriors skipper was granted permission to leave the team early and return to Aotearoa.
“We’re hugely sympathetic to Roger’s position,” Vodafone Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.
“The government paused the travel bubble last week and announced it was giving New Zealanders seven days to return home. The reality is the border might be closed for more than eight weeks.
“Roger is going to rugby union with our blessing but, if we require him to see out the rest of his contract, he won’t be able to return home until at least the end of September and maybe a lot later. It would seriously impact on his ability to make his start in union and we wouldn’t want to see that happen."
The 2018 Dally M Medalist is switching from rugby league to rugby union and will play for the Auckland Blues in Super Rugby.
The Warriors were also supposed to play the Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium in August but it has been cancelled owing to the travel bubble.
Tuivasa-Sheck has 111 games and 30 tries in six seasons with the Warriors. In total, he has 195 NRL appearances and 58 tries in his career.
In his match against Penrith, he became the second player in club history to reach the 100-game captaincy milestone.
The 28-year-old was also named the Warriors' player of the year for three consecutive years in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Leeson Ah Mau has been granted an early release from the season to be with his family.
Hiku returns for Tigers matchup
As Tuivasa-Sheck leaves, another makes an unexpected return.
Utility back Peta Hiku is confirmed to return from what was classed as a season-ending shoulder injury to assume the Warriors captaincy for the first time, in their next NRL clash with the Wests Tigers.
However, it's one return compared to many other injured players. Wayde Egan, Tohu Harris, Rocco Berry have also joined the casualty ward with Chad Townsend, Jack Murchie, and Addin Fonua-Blake.
With that, a completely new front row has been named, which includes a returning Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, who was on loan to the St George Illawarra Dragons for two games.
The outside backs are the only ones left unchanged, keeping Reece Walsh, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Marcelo Montoya, Euan Aitken and Adam Pompey where they are.
Coach Nathan Brown has named a 21-man squad, just one player shy of a full 22-player team.
Their clash with the Tigers happens tonight at 8 pm on Sky Sport.