Billy Harmon set for Canterbury debut against old rival Auckland
Billy Harmon didn't make a great start - or finish - to the Canterbury Metro division one club rugby competition, but he was still able to quit his day job.
The 21-year-old might have plumbed the depths of despair after popping a shoulder against Sydenham in April, yet the openside flanker recovered to captain New Brighton in the Trophy final last month.
Unfortunately Harmon was red carded for a dangerous tackle 20 minutes into the decider with Lincoln University at Rugby Park, an indiscretion that counted against his team, though not his career prospects as a professional rugby player.
Harmon is now working at Rugby Park on a permanent basis after being named early this month in Canterbury's national provincial championship squad.
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Matt Todd's temporary inclusion in the All Blacks' Rugby Championship squad has enabled Harmon to make his debut against Auckland at AMI Stadium on Saturday in a rematch of last year's final.
Harmon was selected ahead of Jed Brown, who is on the comeback trail from his latest injury, and was understandably rapt when the team was named after training on Thursday.
"It's the stuff you work hard for, this opportunity," said Harmon, who returned to New Brighton after playing his secondary school rugby at St Bede's College.
Harmon has graduated from Canterbury's academy system, where he spent some time learning off Todd last year.
"I didn't get too much time with him, but when I did he helped me out heaps," said the former Canterbury Colts and Maori loose forward.
Captain and No 8 Luke Whitelock has shared that responsibility with Canterbury's other experienced forwards Luke Romano and Dominic Bird since the squad assembled - and Harmon finished his plumbing job three weeks ago.
"Luke and the rest of the forwards have been a massive help in helping me understand the roles and the environment. They've definitely helped the process a lot more."
In one respect the old head's and rookies are on equal footing as Canterbury's title defence looms, new breakdown laws means they are on the same page.
Harmon was unfazed by the latest adjudication at the collision, despite playing in a position where breakdowns are part and parcel of his game.
"I'm more of chop tackler, then roll out and get back into the D line. I don't spend too much time in the breakdown," he said.
"I don't think it's hindered my game too much. It's more to get rid of that jackling player, that's never been a massive focus of my game."
Whitelock had no concerns about Harmon handling the step up, saying he fully deserved his chance while the coach who knows him better was also confident his skipper warranted selection.
"We knew years ago he'd play a game like this, we knew he had something about him," said New Brighton coach Scott Pawson.
Harmon, who started plumbing 18 months ago, played his first senior season for the club in 2015 and was elevated to captain this year.
"He's very good with the ball in hand, he's a good runner, good over the ball. He's reads the game very well, he's an outstanding prospect. He's a complete package as a seven," Pawson said.