Roger Tuivasa-Sheck question shut down by Warriors amid big Kalyn Ponga statement

Tuivasa-Sheck came out well and truly on top in the battle of the Dally M winners.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has made a stunning statement in the NRL after returning to fullback to inspire the Warriors to a thrilling 20-12 win over the Knights in Auckland on Sunday. In a battle of the Dally M Medal winners, it was Tuivasa-Sheck - returning to fullback for the first time since making a switch to rugby in 2021 - that outpointed Kalyn Ponga in a stunning display for the home side.

The Warriors superstar returned to play in the centres for his side and looked impressive playing their during the first three rounds. But with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Taine Tuaupiki both unavailable due to injury, Warriors coach Andrew Webster was forced to shift Tuivasa-Sheck to fullback and the No.1 was incredible, putting in a staggering 28 runs for 278 metres, including seven tackle busts.

Pictured right to left, Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga in the NRL.
Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck got the better of Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga in the NRL battle of the fullbacks on Sunday. Pic: Getty

Fox League commentator Andrew Voss described the showdown between Tuivasa-Sheck and Ponga as a fullback battle "for the ages” and both players delivered for their sides in the first half. Tuivasa-Sheck's highlights included a try-saving tackle on Enari Tuala, bulldozing through a Tyson Frizell tackle and a long run from his own half that saw the fleet-footed flyer leave several would-be tacklers in his wake.


Ponga beat four defenders before going on a scintillating 40m kick return in the first half but his Knights were largely outplayed by the home side and struggled for field position. It was a similar story in the second half, with Ponga largely quiet until the end of the contest when his grubber set up a late try.

League world wowed by RTS display at fullback

Fox League's Greg Alexander said Ponga was “barely seen” until the latter stages of the second half when he also put Tuala clear with a bullet pass that saw the Knights winger take off down the left side. Newcastle looked destined to try when Ponga received the ball back in support but his attempted offload was batted down by Tuivasa-Sheck in a crucial try-saving intervention.

“He’s been awesome, but we expected nothing less," Fox League's Michael Ennis said about the Warriors No.1. "Last week he ignited their attack when he went back to fullback. He’s been brilliant." Fellow NRL great Corey Parker said he thought Tuivasa-Sheck was the “best on field.”

With regular Warriors and New Zealand fullback Nicoll-Klokstad returning from injury next week, Webster was asked what his plans were for Tuivasa-Sheck, considering how well he played at No.1. The Warriors coach said he welcomed the inevitable questions but indicated Nicoll-Klokstad would return to his preferred role, while hailing the versatility of Tuivasa-Sheck and how important he is for the side.

This image shows Roger Tuivasa-Sheck being tackled during the Warriors' NRL victory over the Knights.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is tackled during the Warriors' NRL victory over the Knights. Pic: Getty

Warriors coach won't shift RTS to fullback permanently

“It’s my favourite question, again, the Roger to fullback question,” Webster laughed during his post-match press conference. “The thing about it is, it’s good noise. Roger brings that because we all know what he’s done in the game.

“I laugh about it, I make jokes about it. I’m not sick of them — they can keep coming. Hopefully I can be as resilient as the boys were tonight with them. I’m giving you permission to keep asking. Webster was at pains to point out Tuivasa-Sheck's 'team-first' mentality and the fact he wants to play in the centres for the Warriors.

“But I want to be clear, because it’s almost like people think I’m lying, [Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback] is how we want to go. It’s how Roger wants to go," Webster added. "It’s not like Roger is coming to me and saying ‘boss why aren’t I playing fullback?’ He just wants to win and wants to play his role.

Seen here, Warriors NRL star Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is set to play fullback for the Warriors when he returns from injury. Pic: Getty

“The questions can keep coming... but Charnze was that close to the Golden Boot last year and he’s coming back into the team. “(Tuivasa-Sheck’s) role here is to play centre. The day he signed he said ‘I want to play in this position for this club. I don’t want to disrupt Charnze or the club. I want to win a competition.’ It’s not about the individual and that’s led by Roger, not by me.”

“It’s such a cool thing to have a guy that’s played a lot of fullback in his career, he’s nailing centre and nailing his role but then when you need him and he’s reliable. The things I knew Roger would be good at... he was good at — kick returns, carrying the ball in the middle of the field... I knew he was going to be good at all that stuff."

with AAP