Harris’ Hawke’s Bay homecoming
Tohu Harris is set for an emotional homecoming this weekend when the Warriors captain takes his side to cyclone ravaged Hawke’s Bay.
Harris is a product of Waipatu in Hastings and is set to return home for the first time since Gabrielle struck in February.
“They’ve obviously had a terrible thing happen down there, it hits close to the heart knowing that people down in the bay area have been affected so severely so any way that we can give back, I’m sure the club will be willing to do so and bring some excitement to the area again, especially after so many families have been affected,” the 31-year-old said.
The Ngāti Kahungunu star will take teammates to his home marae and hopes to bring some smiles to the faces of a region that has done it tough in 2023.
“It will be good to take the team back to see the family and show them that side of where I grew up. So yeah, that’s one of the things that we get to do now in there, but the game comes first and foremost, we’ve got a game to prepare for and can’t get up to go around seeing too many people.”
It’s the second time Harris has returned to Hawke’s Bay with an NRL team, having played for the Storm in 2015 against the Dragons at McLean Park.
“It means a lot to be able to take New Zealand’s only professional rugby league team back to where I’m from, it’s pretty special to be honest, not everyone gets to do that and I’m pretty fortunate to be able to go back with two different clubs.”
Harris left Hastings as a 17-year-old to take up an irresistible offer with the Melbourne Storm.
A star for the Hastings Boys first XV from 2007-09, Harris concedes he did not have a future in the 15-man game.
“I was no chance of getting anywhere in union so I sort of only really had one option and so it was an easy one. When I got an opportunity to go to Melbourne at the time they had played their third grand final row it’s hard not to take an opportunity like that.”
Having balanced a club and school rugby career, he found his calling in another code.
“Everyone loves rugby league down there, but it’s not as big as rugby union, especially the influence of Hawke’s Bay Magpies on the area. It’s a sport that’s loved but it’s not as strong or as widely played as some other areas.”
He said the side will get great support in Napier.
“Anywhere we go in the country, especially a place that hasn’t had a Warriors game before, it’s going to be unreal. I’ve heard from few people already and the excitement levels is through the roof. With the game being sold out already it’s going to be a great atmosphere and we can’t wait to get down there.”
The Warriors host the Broncos at McLean Park in Napier on Saturday night.
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