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Tuivasa-Sheck granted early release for rugby switch

Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will leave the club at the end of the season to try his hand at rugby union, the superstar fullback confirmed on Saturday.

The 2018 Dally M Player of the Year and two-time Dally M Fullback of the Year is aiming to secure a spot in the All Blacks side ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Tuivasa-Sheck addressed the media alongside Warriors CEO Cameron George and new coach Nathan Brown and confirmed he would be released from the final year of his contract in 2022.

"This will be my last year with the club and yes, I will be moving to NZ rugby next year," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"The club has been supportive in the request and giving me the option to explore.

"Rugby has been the game I've grown up playing. It's always been there in the background. It's always been there, it's no secret. 

"To do it now in a time like this and have the club's support, that's why I chose it now.

"But rugby is down the line and all that stuff will happen later in the year. 

"2021 is my focus, I'm excited about this year and so should the Warriors and NRL fans be.

The Warriors' 2020 season in review

"There's still a lot of goals I'm chasing [in league] and that's what I'm trying to do this year with the club.

"We've got a great group here and coaching staff to do something special this year."

Tuivasa-Sheck was reluctant to discuss his rugby ambitions further out of respect for the Warriors, but noted the desire to play for the All Blacks was not going to be an easy task.

George confirmed there was an agreement in place for Tuivasa-Sheck to return to the Warriors in the future should things not work out, but added he had "no doubt" the 27-year-old would make a mark on the 15-man code.

Tuivasa-Sheck thanked the support of his Warriors teammates and said their reactions were well received.

"They [teammates] have been awesome supporting me," he said.

"I wish I could've announced it earlier and let them know properly. They're keen to make it happen this year.

"It's tough because I've poured a lot into this club so hopefully we can finish off on a high."

George said Tuiava-Sheck, whose leadership at the Warriors in 2020 earned him the Dally M Captain of the Year award, had given the club enough time to explore their own options. 

"This ain't a bombshell for the club," George said.

"Peter O'Sullivan, myself and Roger have been discussing this for a number of weeks now.

"The important thing for us is to respectfully explore the options with Roger and understand what his desires were.

"At the end of the day, Roger has earned the respect from the club to come forward and determine the decision we have come to."

Brown said the club would consider recruitment from outside the club to fill the fullback role in 2022.

"Sport's very transient, we all understand that," Brown said.

"Any time you've got a player of Roger's calibre, it's not a part of anyone’s plan to lose a player of that calibre coming into that age bracket.

"We need to get the club to a stage where [we're] developing a lot of good young players ourselves and the club's strong so if we do lose a player like Roger and we can't replace them from within we can go to the market and have the ability to attract another player to replace him.

"That’s the challenge for us as a club."