Kiwis' Tohu Harris takes new role in his stride

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 13:26 04/05/2014
Tohu Harris
Tohu Harris of the Kiwis is tackled by Josh Morris and Cooper Cronk during the ANZAC Test match between the Australian Kangaroos and the New Zealand Kiwis.

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Tohu Harris was told about midnight on Anzac Day he was playing at five-eighth for the first time of his rugby league career, a revelation that might have preceded a restless night for the one-test second rower.

Yet far from being daunted by Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney's unexpected demand, Harris didn't have nightmares about taking on a playmaking role for the first time since his rugby experience at Hastings Boys' High School.

"I rang him after his game against the Warriors at midnight to say he'll be playing six and he went 'oh yeah, no worries'," said Kearney, who always suspected Harris would not be out of place during Friday's Anzac Test at Sydney's Allianz Stadium.

"That's the type of individual he is. He's the type of character that I knew was going to handle it. It wasn't going to be an issue for him

"T's a capable footballer. He's played in the centres for Melbourne before. He's got a lot of football in him."

Harris backed up his coach's assessment by being typically unfazed - the same laid back attitude he portrayed after being controversially cut from last year's World Cup squad to accommodate Sonny Bill Williams.

"It was pretty exciting, first of all to be selected in the team (and then) to play a different role to what I was used to," the 22-year-old said following the Kangaroos 30-18 victory.

Harris only had minimal preparation time to adapt to the responsibility he ultimately shared with debutant Issac John, but was never stressed as a defensive stand-in for Kieran Foran.

"I tried to prepare as best I could by learning the all the plays and calls," a task he tackled with Shaun Johnson.

"We spoke a little bit. He was giving me a few tips on the shapes and when we would do things. He helped out a lot and the rest of the boys also made it a lot easier.

"I felt as comfortable I could for the first go, I guess."

Harris played fullback, centre and first-five eighth at school but his kicking skills diminished once he switched codes and joined the Melbourne Storm's under-20s squad in 2010.

"I did a lot of kicking in general play, I did goal kicking for my club team. That was a few years back, I haven't really done it since then," he said, relieved that John slotted in at No.6 when the Kiwis were on attack.

Harris was only confirmed to start at five-eighth shortly before kick-off but the Kangaroos were not taken by surprise, according to his Melbourne Storm teammate Billy Slater.

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"They showed their hand on what they were doing to do, they were just going to play it up the middle and make us beat them," the star fullback said.

"They weren't going to beat themselves putting him there."

- Stuff

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