A gruelling 31-hour-journey to present his son with his first NRL jersey was rewarded yesterday when proud Kiwi father Paul Harris watched his 21-year-old son Tohu score a magnificent match-winning try, in Melbourne's World Club Challenge win over Leeds.
After the Storm's 18-14 triumph at Headingley, players admitted to choking up when coach Craig Bellamy called on the backrower's father to present his shirt at a team function on Thursday night.
The fairytale was complete when the Hawke's Bay product finished off a sizzling 50-metre movement to scored a 47th-minute try that put the NRL champions in front 18-8.
Harris wasn't told his father would present him with his jersey.
"It was a surprise to me and it was a special moment," the quietly-spoken rookie New Zealander said.
"It was a bit of a shock to the system, the first 10 minutes. It was lightning-quick but a good experience. I had some butterflies an hour before the game but it was good when we ran out for the warmup."
Father Paul had never been to the UK before and dropped everything on Tuesday to make the trip.
"I went from Napier to Auckland, Auckland to LA, then to London and on to Leeds."
It was also a big night for the legacy of former Storm recruitment manager Darren Bell, who died of a heart attack 14 months ago.
Bell discovered Harris and New Zealand test prop Jesse Bromwich, who scored the previous try by beating four defenders on a bumping, stepping run off a Cooper Cronk pass.
"[Bell] was very good at his job and it's a nice little reward for him if he's looking down on us," said Bromwich.
"It's always good to have another Kiwi in there. I was imagining if my parents [presented my first jersey], that would be pretty special."
In cold conditions in front of a parochial 20,400 crowd, the Storm reclaimed one of the trophies stripped from them for the infamous salary cap rorts.
Bromwich's powerful try put Melbourne on the front foot after the score was locked at 8-all at halftime as he left defender after defender in his wake.
"I don't know what happened there, I just got lucky," he said of the brilliant try.
Harris has almost certainly cemented a spot for the round one clash with St George Illawarra.
Had Melbourne been allowed to keep their 2010 WCC title, they would now be the first Australian club to win the title three times. As it is, they have won the match three times, but the record books show they have been world champions only twice.
The younger brother of English international Sam Burgess impressed as South Sydney sealed a 28-10 win over St George Illawarra in the annual Charity Shield pre-season match in Sydney on Friday night.
George Burgess' presence won't be forgotten by Dragons hookers Mitch Rein and Cameron King, who both left the field after coming off second-best to the 118kg Yorkshireman.
Burgess may now start against the Roosters on March 7.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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