He may be playing out of position when he runs onto Napier’s McLean Park against the Dragons, but Melbourne Storm’s Tohu Harris will be feeling right at home.
The Hawke’s Bay-raised Harris will move from the pack to fill in at centre for the Storm in their ‘home’ match against St George Illawarra on the field he graced as a youngster playing another code.
The 23-year-old played age-grade representative rugby union for the province alongside the likes of new All Blacks halfback Brad Weber and Super Rugby stars Ben Tameifuna and Ihaia West.
He keeps tabs on their progress and that of others he played with before Storm scouts spotted his potential and swooped for the Hastings Boys’ High School student.
The former midfield back doubts he would have made the same impression in the 15-a-side code that he has managed in league.
“I probably wouldn’t have been the same if I had stayed with rugby union, I wouldn’t have reached as far as they have,” the seven-Test Kiwi international said.
“I’m lucky to be playing rugby league and lucky to be where I am at the moment.”
There was no luck in Harris’ barnstorming showing to grab two tries in the Storm’s 52-10 demolition of Penrith last week, but he moves from the second row to the centres this week.
“It’s a little bit of a different role, but it’s something that isn’t completely foreign,” he said.
The Storm will take to the field in a special one-off jersey designed with Harris featuring references to his cultural background and the stands will be filled with his extended family.
“It’s something I never thought that would happen,” he said.
“It (the first NRL match in the city) is really exciting for me and my family and the community here in Hawke’s Bay – it’s a humungous occasion.
“To play the game in front of my family in my home town is a huge honour.”
Harris also met two students of a youth development project that he is an ambassador for which seeks to build young leaders in the community.
“I think it is important to give them something to look up to or look towards the future for and give them goals to strive for.”