When Roger Tuivasa-Sheck chose to re-sign with the New Zealand Warriors on a lucrative four-year deal, the naysayers were quick to state the 24-year-old had kissed his rugby league career goodbye.
The fullback can only crack a knowing smile when told of the public’s opinion of him when he committed to the club until 2022.
"It’s a tough one, (hearing those comments) but at the same time I wasn’t listening to them before so there’s no real reason to listen to them now," Tuivasa-Sheck told NRL.com.
"Those people with the negative opinions will always be there but I’m happy I’ve made this decision, I’m at peace now and can just play footy.
"All of my decisions have been based around my circle, my parents, my family, my partner Ashley (Walker) also plays a massive role. That’s my circle right there and if they’re happy with my decisions then I’m happy."
Happy is an understatement. The Warriors have won four straight games to start their season for the first time in club history.
Tipped to finish among the also-rans this year, most of the rugby league world didn’t give the Warriors a chance.
With the burden of a history of under-achievement on their shoulders, it was hard for anybody to consider this season would be any different, which led to speculation suggesting RTS was unhappy and wanted out.
"There were some tough times where I did really consider leaving. I wanted to be playing on the big stages you know, I wanted to win. But after I sat down and really thought about it, staying here just ticked a lot of boxes for me. There’s a real challenge for me here, to take the team to the next level," he said.
"The past two years I’ve been here we’ve had new signings and read the headlines like we’re going to be a top-eight team, that we’ll win the comp. We’ve had so much of that talk. But this year just felt like switch came on within the club.
"With Corvs (strength and conditioning coach Alex Corvo) coming on, the new players, they just brought this and that to the side; there was so much new stuff going on," Tuivasa-Sheck said.
This is also a side which no longer falls apart when it counts most. The off-season recruitment of Blake Green, Tohu Harris and Adam Blair has boosted the club's depth, not to mention the combined effort of Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a contributing to their back five sitting at number one for combined running metres at 2483.
"I feel this year we’re able to go the grind a lot more against other teams, whereas before the opposition would assume we’d fall off in the last 10 minutes, we’re not going to last the distance. Again, it’s now a belief thing, that we can stay in the game, it all comes down to that," he said.
Named by coach Stephen Kearney as captain in 2017, Tuivasa-Sheck admits he didn’t embrace the role as well as he could have but is now settled in the role.
"I wouldn’t say I’m better at it; I’d say I’m more comfortable. I’m still not as confident as those Cameron Smith types. I’m lucky I’ve got good people surrounding me, including experienced players I can pass the load onto as well," Tuivasa-Sheck said.
This does indeed look to be a man who is playing with the weight off his shoulders. RTS is second only to Bulldogs fullback Moses Mbye and Sea Eagles star Tom Trbojevic for line breaks, trailing each custodian by one.
"I just feel happy, I’m getting to focus on my job. Other years I’ve always been worried about what this player is doing and what that player is doing, but I feel now I can focus on my game more and take that to the next level."