Dual international Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had to overcome an unprecedented amount of pressure and expectation as he pursued his All Blacks dream.
Tuivasa-Sheck is one of the greatest New Zealand-born talents in the history of rugby league – if not the greatest Kiwi to have ever starred in the 13-player game.
In some ways, legends including Benji Marshall and Stacey Jones don’t quite compare.
Former Warriors captain Tuivasa-Sheck became the first player in club history to win the Dally M medal in 2018. To put it simply, the sidestepping sensation was a rugby league icon.
But Tuivasa-Sheck continued to harbour dreams of playing for the All Blacks, despite his success in the NRL.
After playing for Auckland in the NPC and the Blues in Super Rugby, the midfielder made his debut at international level against Ireland in 2022.
However, Tuivasa-Sheck has failed to live up to the hype; he couldn’t cement his place in the All Blacks.
The 29-year-old has a point to prove this year, as he looks to make his mark in Super Rugby Pacific ahead of this year’s World Cup in France.
As for whether or not he’s good enough to make that squad, well only time will tell. Tuivasa-Sheck is just focused on learning from his first season with “one of the best teams in the world.”
“It was still such a big learning for me,” Tuivasa-Sheck said. “I was only (in my) first year, and got called into one of the best teams in the world.
“I’m still blessed to be part of that team. I was just there soaking it all in.
“I got moved to come back and play NPC, got moved to the New Zealand XV. I was really stoked with it.
“I just wanted to play rugby. I really wish I could get more games for the All Blacks, but is the path I’m going through.
“I’m blessed. If that’s the best learning curve for me, then it is.”
The All Blacks are one of the best teams in world rugby for a reason. Their depth is incredible, and Tuivasa-Sheck may learn that the hard way.
Tuivasa-Sheck faces an uphill battle to make the World Cup squad, as Jordie Barrett and David Havili are likely the frontrunners for the No. 12 jersey.
But the 29-year-old is eager to change his playstyle this season, and is “excited” about his second campaign in professional rugby.
“I’m just excited, just really, really excited about this year, my second year of rugby,” he added.
“Hopefully I can be a lot more calm in the mind and all that, not chasing and worrying about where I need to be and hesitating.
“That’s my thing this year, play a bit more freely and be in the right places.”
Super Rugby Pacific gets underway in a couple of weeks, with a New Zealand blockbuster between the champion Crusaders and Chiefs getting things underway.
As for Tuivasa-Sheck’s Blues, they’re set to face the kiwi rivals the Highlanders on February 25 at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.