• Teimana Harrison was a student at Rotorua Boys High School in 2011 when he hit his friend Bishop Thompson, 17, with his jet-ski on Lake Okareka.
• Harrison and another friend, who had been riding with Bishop on another jet-ski, were convicted over the death.
• He is now enjoying a breakthrough season with England's Northampton Saints
• Talking about Bishop's death, Harrison explains how he is "doing it for both of us"

Dylan Hartley might have a future as a rugby scout with a shrewd eye for potential.

When he returned to his old school in 2011, he identified Teimana Harrison as a talented prospect. He was right.

England's captain recommended the tearaway flanker to Northampton and, nearly five years on, the club have cause to be grateful. Soon that gratitude may be shared by England coach Eddie Jones.

This has been Harrison's breakthrough season. Injuries have opened up opportunities in the Saints back row and he has excelled - operating both in his familiar openside role and also at No 8.

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Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, says Harrison has been a revelation, and he will need to impress again on Saturday in a daunting European Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Allianz Park.

Rough edges have been smoothed since Harrison made the long road from Rotorua Boys' High School to Franklin's Gardens. His former coach back at home called him a 'mongrel' and he concedes that Mallinder once referred to him as a wild man, explaining: 'I ran around not really doing much. Now I choose my battles better.

"As a back-rower you want to be a menace at the breakdown and you want to be hard as nails. To go out there and just hurt people."

Harrison, 23, is a Kiwi with English blood. His father was born in Derby before moving to New Zealand aged nine. Teimana was born in Opotiki, in North Island's Bay of Plenty region. After early days as a lock, he shifted to the back row and went on to captain the school which has produced a current All Black, Liam Messam, as well as Hartley for England.

Thomas Young of Wasps takes on Teimana Harrison (L) and George Pisi during the Aviva Premiership match between Wasps and Northampton Saints. Photo / Getty Images
Thomas Young of Wasps takes on Teimana Harrison (L) and George Pisi during the Aviva Premiership match between Wasps and Northampton Saints. Photo / Getty Images

These days the colours of the Saints feature in an elaborate sleeve tattoo on Harrison's right arm. That is a display of affection and loyalty to the club who gave him a chance, but even more poignant is the ink on his chest. Harrison has the name of a friend written above his heart as a reminder of a sadder episode.

Months before being scouted by Hartley and coming to England, Harrison was convicted in court - without punishment - after the death of 17-year-old friend Bishop Thompson in a jet-ski accident.

The pals had been messing around on Lake Okareka, Thompson fell into the water and was struck by the jet-ski being ridden by Harrison. Another friend, Ricardo Maaka, was also convicted for his part in the incident.

Speaking about the events for the first time, Harrison said: "That was a really tough time - probably the toughest of my life. It will be forever. Losing my mate was horrific. But through all that, the family supported me - my mate's family.

"To have them behind me means that doing this is almost doing it for both of us. He was a really good rugby player and was aspiring to be an All Black. I hope I can make him proud by succeeding over here.

"I think of him a lot. That accident has been massive in my life and means I am trying not to waste time with useless stuff. I've tried to get my head down and work hard.

"It's been massive in turning me around. I'm still in touch with the family. Every time I go back home, I go to see him. It's still hard to think about but I guess I've been able to move on a bit now."

Losing my mate was horrific. But through all that, the family have supported me - my mate's family

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Explaining the background to his northern migration, he said: "I wasn't getting much love through the New Zealand secondary schools system, so I thought it might be nice to have a change of scenery. Dylan was massive in me coming over. He told the club about me.

"He was out in New Zealand for the World Cup and came to watch a game. Thankfully, I played well so he said, 'Yeah, bring him over'. I came on a two-month trial and a few of the boys got injured so I found myself playing first-team rugby. I must have done something right because Jim signed me up."

The Saints acquired a flanker with energy, aggression and raw class, as well as a colourful character. When Harrison arrived he wore expansive dreadlocks. The culture shock for his new team-mates meant they were soon removed.

"They went in my second year here," he said. "No-one here had really seen them before so I was getting a bit of stick. They might make an appearance again later on but I want to be known for the rugby and not the crazy hairstyle!

"I was a bit of a hillbilly, I suppose. I had a mean mullet and the boys at home said, 'You should get that dreaded'. I did and kept it for six years. When I got over here I didn't fit in so I snipped it off."

The flanker is on the radar of the England Saxons set-up and harbours ambitions to reach full senior level. Photo / Getty Images
The flanker is on the radar of the England Saxons set-up and harbours ambitions to reach full senior level. Photo / Getty Images

Relocating in the East Midlands aided the healing process following the death of his friend, especially with the typical, light-hearted banter of a team-sport environment. The English struggled to say 'Teimana' correctly, so nicknames were required.

"Nobody could really pronounce my name so they nicknamed me 'T'," said Harrison. "Then they found out that I like mince on toast, so now they name me 'Mince'. It's my pre-match meal - mince on toast with a few poached eggs."

The recipe seems to be working. Harrison has excelled in recent months. He grew up studying Richie McCaw for clues to the art of openside play and last weekend he held his own in a duel with George Smith, the great former Wallaby at Wasps.

Now Harrison is on England's radar for the Saxons trip to South Africa in June and is ready to push himself as a specialist candidate for the No 7 Test shirt. "I'm playing in England now and my goals are set on England," he said.

"I don't want to go home. I've got my foot in the door so to leave and throw it away would be a waste. I hope if I carry on playing this way and developing, I will be knocking on the door for the Saxons tour.

"Ever since I showed up, there's been all this talk about England not having an out-and-out No 7. So yeah, I'm keen to fill that space if I can get the right experience."

Harrison has already had profound experiences on and off the field. On Saturday, he will have another against Saracens' mighty back row. He will fight the good fight; for himself, his club and for the friend he lost.