Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Harris set for Kiwis recall

Tohu Harris has showed himself to be versatile. Photo / Getty Images
Tohu Harris has showed himself to be versatile. Photo / Getty Images

He was the controversial omission from last year's World Cup — with his last-minute axing casting a shadow over the Kiwis' preparations — but Tohu Harris is set to return to the New Zealand side for next week's Anzac test.

The Melbourne Storm back rower was an original selection for the 24-man Cup squad only to be dropped the day after it was announced, when Sonny Bill Williams made himself available.

Williams went on to be named RLIF International Player of the Year and was the standout Kiwis player at the tournament. However, his imminent return to rugby union in 2015 means he won't be considered for the Kiwis team for next Friday's clash in Sydney.

Harris was understandably shattered by his late cut, though has said little about the affair. He turned down the NZRL's 'Clayton's' offer to travel with the Kiwis and play in their pre-Cup shakedown against the Cook Islands, electing minor off-season surgery instead.

But coach Stephen Kearney has remained a fan. After his club debut in March, Harris made 25 appearances for the Storm last year, averaging almost 100 running metres per game and more than 28 tackles per match (only behind Cameron Smith and Ryan Hinchcliffe).

The 1.95m, 112kg Harris was the club's rookie of the year. The 22-year-old is versatile, as he showed by filling in adeptly at centre in last Friday's loss to the Warriors. The Storm franchise set high standards — only the strongest survive — and Harris has thrived.

Kearney will name his 18-man roster for the Anzac test this evening, and Harris is expected to be on it.

"I don't think anyone felt good about what happened with Tohu last year," admits Kearney. "But he is a great kid and his attitude has certainly seen him pushing for selection again, as we start building for the next World Cup in three years."

Harris debuted for the Kiwis in last year's Anzac fixture, called in to replace the injured Jeremy Smith and then promoted to the starting line-up, when skipper Simon Mannering was also ruled out.

Meanwhile, Warriors youngster Siliva Havili could be the bolter for the No9 jersey, in the absence of injured hooker Issac Luke. The Herald on Sunday understands Havili is a strong contender for Kearney's team, despite not having played a full game at NRL level.

Surprise Kiwi selections were common in the 1980s and 1990s but have become rarer because of the number of New Zealanders playing at NRL level. The last shock selection was probably Krisnan Inu in 2007.

Havili, 21, represented Tonga last year and made his NRL debut in round six, coming off the bench against the Bulldogs at Eden Park.

Josh Hoffman's injury has thrown another spanner into the works, with no obvious options for the No6 jersey.

The 18-man squad was finalised early last week but has since changed and the selectors will convene again this morning for final discussions.


Possible Kiwis squad

• Peta Hiku – Manly
• Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – Roosters
• Dean Whare – Panthers
• Shaun Kenny-Dowall – Roosters
• Jason Nightingale – Dragons
• Isaac John – Panthers
• Shaun Johnson – Warriors
• Jeremy Smith – Knights
• Simon Mannering – Warriors (c)
• Greg Eastwood – Bulldogs
• Jesse Bromwich – Storm
• Siliva Havili – Warriors
• Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – Roosters
• Tohu Harris – Storm
• Sam Moa – Roosters
• Jason Taumalolo – Cowboys
• Adam Blair – Tigers
• Elijah Taylor – Panthers

- Herald on Sunday

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