Tuivasa-Sheck still learning from the master
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is using the final weeks he has playing alongside Anthony Minichiello to pick the brains of the veteran fullback as he positions himself to be the Sydney Roosters' long-term No.1.
The fleet-footed Tuivasa-Sheck has made no secret of his desire to replace Minichiello at the back when he retires at the end of this year. He has already been given a taste of life at fullback, issued with a roaming role when the Roosters are on the attack, with Minichiello reverting back to the wing.
The pair combined for Minichiello to cross on the flank for the Roosters' first try against Gold Coast last week.
''I'm pretty happy with the way me and Mini have been working together,'' Tuivasa-Sheck said. ''We said, let's try it and see how it goes when I come out the back there. Now it's worked pretty well and I am more excited to get in and get a bit more of the action.
''We have been working a lot together. Since the start of the year I've really had my eyes up watching him train and trying to take little things and then, getting my shot at first grade, I can learn off him.
''He has been good teaching me all the little things that fullbacks should have and how to play in general. It would be pretty cool to get that No.1 jersey.''
Like Tuivasa-Sheck, Minichiello spent the infancy of his top grade career on the wing before switching full-time to fullback when Luke Phillips retired after the Roosters' 2002 premiership win.
The 34-year-old has maintained a mortgage on the No.1 jersey since then and in more recent years has had Tuivasa-Sheck studying him closely.
Tuivasa-Sheck said Minichiello's ability to direct the defensive line was his best asset.
''That's the role no one else sees or knows Mini for, the way he controls the whole defensive line,'' Tuivasa-Sheck said. ''That's the biggest thing we pride ourselves on is the defensive line. That's what I need in the pre-season: to really work on my defensive play and try and have that worked out.
''From the back, it's leading. He knows ... that I have to try and step up and lead the boys defensively. He is really good in controlling our defensive line, leading and being there for the big boys.
''He is always there helping me. I always ask him questions at training and he is always happy to help, which is always cool with him. I'm pretty lucky to walk over and ask him about this and that, and he is always happy to help.''
The pair will again shift roles, with the defending premiers taking on the struggling Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night. Despite announcing that he would end his 15-season career at the end of this year, Minichiello had not differed in his approach to games, Tuivasa-Sheck said.
''We thought he could go on forever,'' Tuivasa-Sheck said. ''The way he went about it, no one has been spooked or changed our mindset. It's cool for him to be calm about it. Hopefully we can win it for him.''
Sydney Morning Herald