(Reuters) – New Zealand Warriors full back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was brought to the brink of tears after his compatriots performed an impromptu haka to honour him at the National Rugby League’s player of the year award ceremony on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old became the first Warriors player to win the Dally M Medal and New Zealand-born NRL players Issac Luke, Jazz Tevaga, Jordan Rapana and Jamayne Isaako celebrated by launching into a haka in the ballroom at a gala dinner in Sydney.
“I was trying to hold back all the emotions. This is something they do for someone on a special occasion and you honour them with this haka, it’s one of the highest accolades,” Tuivasa-Sheck said on the Today Show.
“It meant a lot to have Issac Luke and the rest of the group get up there and having two other players from different clubs honour me with a haka, it means a lot.
“I was just grateful to be there and taking in the moment.”
The full back is the third New Zealander to win the Dally M after Gary Freeman in 1992 and Jason Taumololo, who shared the medal with Australia’s Cooper Cronk in 2016.
“I remember the first time I came to these awards in 2013 and Cooper Cronk won the Dally M award and I was just sitting there thinking it would be a dream to win this award and not knowing the day would ever come,” Tuivasa-Sheck added.
Tuivasa-Sheck polled 29 votes to win the league’s player-of-the-season award by two points from Newcastle’s Kalyn Ponga, with Cronulla’s Valentine Holmes third after a dramatic final round of voting.
South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Anthony Seibold was named coach of the year, Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith won captain of the year, while Brisbane Broncos hooker Brittany Breayley was named the NRL’s female player of the year.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O’Brien)