Alarm bells rang when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was spotted on the sidelines icing his left leg during New Zealand Warriors’ 30-18 NRL trial loss to Melbourne on Saturday.
But the Warriors captain joked that his burning lungs were the biggest concern after emerging unscathed from his injury comeback at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Eyebrows were raised when Tuivasa-Sheck sat out the second half against the Storm with ice on his left leg in the livewire fullback’s first game back from a knee injury that ended his 2016 season.
However, Tuivasa-Sheck said he had only suffered a corked quad in his impressive first-half display in which he set up a try and scored another.
“I pulled up well. I feel sweet. I was more worried about my lungs,” Tuivasa-Sheck laughed.
“I was very excited. It had been just so long since I had last been on the field.”
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said Tuivasa-Sheck and former Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson were always going to be rested for the second half.
Johnson was returning from a groin complaint that sidelined him for the recent Auckland Nines.
With their prized pair on the paddock, the Warriors cruised to an 18-0 lead against a young Storm side.
But rising half Brodie Croft helped spark Melbourne’s run of 30 unanswered points as Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck watched on helplessly in the second half.
“The idea was to give them 40 minutes,” new Warriors coach Kearney said of the high profile duo.
“I was really pleased with the first half – there were some pretty good signs there.”
Kearney said Tuivasa-Sheck showed the traits that helped earn the captaincy this season during his knee surgery rehabilitation.
Tuivasa-Sheck was initially considered a surprise choice to replace skipper Ryan Hoffman this year after playing just seven games for the club.
“It’s a real credit to Roger to get himself in the position to play like that out there,” Kearney said.
“Sometimes coming back from a serious injury like that is pretty tough.
“But he’s a wonderful pro, a wonderful lad and brings a great energy to the team.
“I am sure there is plenty more ahead of him.”
The Warriors will play their final trial against Gold Coast at Palmerston North on February 19.