It's early days ... but don't be surprised if Tohu Harris wins the Ngati Kahungunu Sportsperson of the Year award later this year.
The pride of Waipatu, Harris, 21, became an early favourite for the award with a dream debut for the Melbourne Storm premier rugby league side as they beat Leeds 18-14 in Saturday's World Club Challenge played in front of a sellout crowd of 20,400 at Headingley.
Secondrower Harris scored a crucial try which gave the Storm an 18-8 lead in the 47th minute, made nine hit ups, and was involved in 27 tackles before taking a rest in the 71st minute.
In an email home to his mother Dale in Hastings Harris described the match as "a shock to the system during 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."
The Hastings Boys' High School product told his mother he appreciated the effort his father Paul went to in making a 31-hour journey to get to Leeds before the game.
"I think the occasion was getting to Tohu a wee bit but his father helped keep him grounded," Dale said.
She and other family members watched the game live on television at the family's Hastings home. "There was an unveiling going on at Waipatu Marae near by. They had trouble with the television over there so a lot of them came over home to watch. It was an awesome morning. Craig Bellamy [the Storm coach] and all of Tohu's teammates are thrilled with his display. I don't think he could have done anything more."
Harris, a Junior Kiwi in 2011 and last year, was a late replacement for the injured Kevin Proctor. Even if Proctor is fit Harris is still expected to make the Storm's 17 for their March 10 NRL opener against the Dragons. If that eventuates the Storm club will fly Dale and Paul over to Melbourne for the game.
Harris joined the Storm in 2009 and the following year was the Storm Under-20s "Young Gun," the equivalent of MVP. In 2010 Harris also won the Ngati Kahungunu Junior Sportsman of the Year award.