Highly regarded Sydney flyhalf and Junior Wallabies star Will Harrison is the first nominee for the 2019 National Rugby Championship Rising Star award.
Launched in 2018, and won by a landslide by Fijian Drua star Alivereti Veitokani, the award recognises emerging players with fewer than three games of Super Rugby or fewer than three Tests for the Flying Fijians.
Playing his second NRC season in the royal blue of Sydney, Harrison’s game has come on leaps and bounds since the first nervous showings of a hugely promising young playmaker promoted from Colts without a lot of senior rugby experience last season.
“I remember last year calling his first game in the NRC and thinking, ‘this kid is so far out of his depth’,” Fox Sports commentator Andrew Swain told RUGBY.com.au this week, having made the trip to Dubbo on Saturday to call all the action in the NSW Country-Sydney grudge match at Apex Oval.
“Unfortunately for him, his debut was a bit of a train wreck, but I watched him at the Under-20s World Championships this year, called all of his games, and just the maturity he showed through that Under-20s campaign, I think we saw that on the weekend.”
A standout with the Junior Wallabies this year, Harrison’s performance on the weekend played a huge role in Sydney’s comeback either side of halft-ime in Dubbo, netting a try himself and kicking three conversions from four attempts off the tee.
“Down 26-0 after fifteen minutes, Sydney didn’t really know what had hit them,” Swain said. “But there was no panic, and Will Harrison contributed to that mentality a lot in that he just took control, remained calm, and got them right back into the game.”
“His kicking game is really good, he shows a lot variety around his kicking, and I think just the cool, calm head was something beyond his years really.”
Harrison’s battle in Dubbo with Country flyhalf Mack Mason was an intriguing one, and with the departure after the Rugby World Cup of Bernard Foley from the Waratahs, it didn’t take a lot of imagination to see these two young no.10s firing their first claims on the Tahs’ playmaking role for 2020.
And both had their share of success, too; Mason controlled the Eagles around the park nicely to build that big first half lead, but Harrison replied well and truly as Sydney drew level at 26-all heading into the last twenty minutes.
“He just seemed to have a lot of time,” Swain marvelled of Harrison’s display as the city-slickers stormed back into the game.
“Stephen Larkham was a guy who always looked like he had time, and Larkham was over in Argentina guiding Will and the Junior Wallabies through that campaign as well, and I feel like that has really set him up, just helping develop that calm head.
“Having someone like Steve Larkham, who can guide you though your first year of semi-professional rugby, and representative rugby at that level, I just really thought we saw a lot of that in Will Harrison on the weekend,” Swain said.
The NRC Rising Star award winner will be selected by a judging panel at the end of the 2019 NRC season.
2019 NRC Rising Star Award
Round 1: Will Harrison (Sydney flyhalf)
NRC Round 2. All times AEST
Saturday September 7
1pm - Fijian Drua vs Force, ANZ Stadium Suva, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo Sports
4pm - Melbourne Rising vs NSW Country, AA Bailey Reserve, Adelaide, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Foxtel and Kayo Sports.
Sunday September 8
1pm - Brisbane City vs Sydney, Bond University, Robina, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo Sports
3pm - Queensland Country vs Canberra Vikings, Bond University, Robina, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo Sports