A mouthwatering matchup featuring potentially New Zealand’s two best rugby league fullbacks is set to highlight Saturday’s NRL clash between Penrith and the Sydney Roosters.
On one side is the Roosters Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who has done a superb job this season after switching from the wing to take over his club’s No.1 jersey from retired icon Anthony Minichiello.
Opposing him at Penrith will be Panthers utility back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who after turns on the wing and centre has recently moved to the back following an injury to rising star Matt Moylan.
“He’s got that speed at the back there and he’s comfortable under the high ball, so it will be a good matchup to play against him,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.
The sweet stepping 22-year-old Rooster has scored eight tries in as many Tests, playing his first seven on the win before lining up at fullback for last May’s Anzac Test.
Injury and suspension respectively prevented Watene-Zelezniak from making his Test debut in both 2014 and 2015, but no one doubts his class.
The 19-year-old flyer has averaged a try in better than every two NRL games over that time.
“The first time we met he was my roommate for the Kiwis camp for the Anzac Test in Brisbane,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.
“I met him over there and he’s a cool person and I can’t wait to run against him.”
Tuivasa-Sheck is determined to improve his fullback play in future years in the position and has targeted his positional work as the area he needs to work on most.
“Mini (Minichiello) knew all the halves. He knew the kickers well, like where they are going to kick to and that’s something I want to nail down,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.
“I can’t just go in there and rely on my instincts, because the boys want me to get a good (kick) return.”
He was doing plenty of homework this week on the kicking games of canny Panthers halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace.
A premiership winner in 2013, Tuivasa-Sheck would love to add another title to his portfolio before joining the NZ Warriors after this season.
“I would love to win it, not for me as a leaving gift, but for the boys that we have here in the 2015 group,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.