He was encircled by his new teammates when caught with his shorts down -- and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck can expect another protective blanket to form if he makes his Kiwis debut in Friday’s Anzac Test in Canberra.
The 19-year-old joined a Kiwis camp for the first time on Sunday and yesterday was made to feel awkwardly welcome when he tackled the team’s initiation process.
First the Sydney Roosters rookie had to make a speech, and sing a song (“Hey Baby”) on the team bus en route to training.
Then, during a relaxed session, he fulfilled another requirement -- performing the haka in his underwear.
“It was a bit embarrassing but it something you’ve got to do,” said Tuivasa-Sheck, as he takes in his new environment.
Tuivasa-Sheck played the curtain raiser to the last trans-Tasman clash in Townsville last October for the Junior Kiwis and can scarcely comprehend his promotion to the senior team.
The wing/fullback is the only uncapped player included in the squad and today he could be preparing for a role on the right edge of the Kiwis attack at Canberra Stadium.
Tuivasa-Sheck or the experienced Sam Perrett will claim the wing slot when the team is expected to be confirmed.
And if the rookie is overlooked it will hardly amount to a setback.
Just a dozen games into his NRL career Tuivasa-Sheck admitted: “I’m just happy to be here wearing these colours.”
Tuivasa-Sheck found out he was selected when centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall handed over his mobile in the Roosters dressing room after their 38-0 thumping of the Bulldogs last Friday night and heard Stephen Kearney’s voice.
“I was over the moon. I tried to keep in it a bit, I knew the boys were watching for me, they were happy for me.”
After conveying the good news to family, Tuivasa-Sheck called Samoa’s management to explain he was pledging allegiance to the Kiwis a day after he was approached to play Tonga in Sydney on Saturday.
Toa Samoa coach Steve Price and technical adviser Nigel Vagana identified as a potential member of their World Cup squad but the Apia-born teenager instead opted for the Kiwis.
“It was a pretty hard decision, I’m just happy to be in the Kiwis. It was a goal when I left New Zealand.”
Tuivasa-Sheck, who initially played rugby at Otahuhu College, was scouted by the Roosters and made his first grade debut last July after Perrett made a mid-season move to the Bulldogs.
Signed through to the end of 2016 and seen as Anthony Minichiello’s eventual replacement at fullback, Tuivasa-Sheck has been monitored by the Kiwis selectors since cracking first grade and is seen as a long-term prospect.
“I’m here for experience but you never know how camp goes, if the coach says I’m there, I’ll put my hand up for the role,” he said.
Dad will be in the stands regardless, though Mum and his sisters are in Hamilton, where Shirley and Krystal graduate from Waikato University today and tomorrow.
“I was planning to go back for their graduations. They understand and send their blessings,” said Tuivasa-Sheck, as he continues his own learning experience.
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