Considering the weight of expectation on his shoulders, Warriors teenager Chanel Harris-Tavita is handling the pressure well.

Still only 19, Harris-Tavita has been thrust into the spotlight since the sudden departure of Shaun Johnson last November.

This season was meant to be another step in his apprenticeship at Mt Smart, continuing to learn his trade, while pushing for some minutes in first grade.

But the exit of Johnson, which followed the transfer of Mason Lino last September has pushed the former Pakurunga Jaguars junior into the spotlight.


He is seen as the next local hero in the halves; the kid with magic in his boots, to one day help fill the play making void left by Johnson.

For someone who has never played first grade that's a considerable leap, but Harris-Tavita is developing steadily.

"There has been a lot of noise around Shaun leaving," said Harris-Tavita. "It is a big loss but it's an opportunity for us. We are competing every week for that spot and it is only making us better. It's helping us a lot…helping our game."

Like Johnson, Harris-Tavita was a talented touch football exponent, representing Counties Manukau as a teenager.

He's also got a decent sidestep and the eye for a pass, as he showed in Whangarei last Saturday, with a clever dummy then slight delay to set up Ken Maumalo's second try, moments after coming on the field.

Chanel Harris-Tavita during a Warriors pre-season training session. Photo / Photosport
Chanel Harris-Tavita during a Warriors pre-season training session. Photo / Photosport

His improvement over the off season has been exponential, far away from the nervous kid that turned up in the first week of training with the NRL squad in November.

"Everyone has had a hand in my pre-season," said Harris-Tavita. "[Assistant coach] Todd Payten on attack, Tony Iro on defence and especially Blake Green. He is real calm. All I have to do is keep my eyes up and make the most of the opportunity when I want the ball. I have come a long way, and the boys have come a long way from where we started."

Harris-Tavita has been engaged in a summer long duel with Australian Adam Keighran for the No6 jersey, but it's a friendly war so far.


"We are pretty tight," said Harris-Tavita. "Everyone asks us if there is a bit of beef in there, [but] we catch up on our off days. [Adam] took me for my first golf game the other week. I'm keen to have another hit and get back out there."

The 21-year-old Keighran appears the favourite to get the nod for the season opener against the Bulldogs. He has greater experience, is a stronger defender at this stage and is earmarked as the No 1 kicker at the club.

"It is a massive opportunity but we are just looking to help each other and it is going to be best for the club," said Harris-Tavita. "Whoever gets the jersey will deserve it and if for some reason someone gets injured then we are happy with the depth that we have got...because we have been competing for the last 17 or so weeks."

And if Harris-Tavita misses out next week, he won't be kicking stones, as he is certain to feature at some stage this season.

"It will just be motivation for me to just keep pushing for that spot," said Harris-Tavita. "That will help the halves in front of me. If I am putting pressure on them then that will make them play better."