Schools skipper wants to repay rugby debt

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Will Harrison is not quite your typical Australian Schoolboys captain.

The Marcellin College, Randwick student has never represented his school in rugby,  there is no rugby union team at the school in Sydney’s east, with his efforts as a Randwick colt catching national selectors’ eyes.

Though it is the alma mater of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, Marcellin is more used to stories like that of Harrison’s classmate Campbell Graham, who made his NRL debut for South Sydney this season.

Its alumni list includes names like former Canterbury Bulldogs, Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers star Braith Anasta, South Sydney's John Sutton and Cronulla's Aaron Gray.

The pull of the 13-man code was enough for Harrison to give up rugby briefly in his early teens, but the Aussie skipper was quickly drawn back to the code he started playing as a four-year-old.

“I played league growing up but I gave it a real crack a couple of years ago,” he said.

“I just missed rugby too much so I just had to come back.

“I guess it's always tempting to league but you've got to stay strong and especially, rugby's given me a lot so I guess I've got to give it back to them now.”

Harrison’s indebtedness to rugby has come in spades this season, with the schools selectors showing faith in him, despite a horrific injury that threatened to cut his year off.

Just two matches into his season with Randwick, Harrison broke his right fibula, an incident that left him worried his dream might have been snuffed out.

“We were playing Sydney Uni and I bumped off this bloke and my studs stayed in the ground and then my whole body went one way but my leg stayed in,” he said.

“I just heard this massive crack, it wasn't a good sound.

“When I found out I broke it, I was very emotional, especially because I thought I had no chance, like that ruled out all my footy for this year.

“Schoolboys footy is what you want to do it's that first step and I was just spewing.”

"Playing for the schoolboys, let alone being captain, was certainly not in his thoughts as he sat in a hospital bed in April, with this weekend’s match just his sixth of 2017.

“It's been a long year with a big injury and that, but coming back from it, it means the world and a massive honour,” he said.

“Just putting on the gold jersey to captain it is very,very special.”

The flyhalf paid tribute to the help he received from Waratahs staff with his rehab, without which he may not have found himself in this position.

Like many of his teammates, Harrison’s goal for next year is playing U20s and ultimately landing a Super Rugby gig, though an application for a construction management degree means he has a back-up plan.

Harrison’s immediate challenge, though,  is facing an all-conquering New Zealand schools side, and deciding on what to do about the haka.

The Australia U20s and the Wallabies faced their Kiwi foes in an arrow shape in their most recent clashes, but Harrison said he was yet to decide how the schoolboys would approach it.

“You’ve got to respect the Haka, it’s a traditional part of New Zealand rugby and I’m really looking forward to facing it," he said.

“I know the 20s did that arrow so that looks pretty cool.”

The Aussie Schoolboys take on New Zealand on Saturday, kicking off at 1pm AEDT at TG Millner Oval, Eastwood, the curtain-raiser to the NRC clash between the Greater Sydney Rams and the Fijian Drua.