The Emirates Western Force has signed powerful former Waratahs and City Origin rugby league back Sam Harris to a one-year contract.
The 29-year-old joins the WA side after steering Japanese outfit Honda Heat into the top division for the first time in the club’s 10-year history with a standout campaign from flyhalf.
Born in Auckland, Harris was raised on Sydney’s northern beaches and played both rugby codes until age 17, before electing to concentrate on the 15-man game.
After winning the Ken Catchpole Medal in 2000 whilst playing for Warringah, Harris was snapped up by the Waratahs and won 13 caps in his first two seasons of Super Rugby. He broke into the representative arena in 2002 playing twice for Australia ‘A’.
Blessed with the size and strength of a back rower and the ball-playing ability to cover the inside backs positions, he attracted interest from both codes the following season before decided to chance his arm in the NRL.
In four seasons in rugby league, three of those with the Manly Sea Eagles, Harris made 64 first grade appearances and represented City in the annual clash with Country in 2004.
But after a final year with Wests Tigers, the versatile back returned to the Waratahs to play the 2007 and 2008 seasons before shifting to Japan and moving out of his customary inside centre role and into flyhalf.
Returning to ply his trade with Warringah this year, the 103kg utility has continued in the number 10 jersey where he has formed a lethal partnership with Force-bound scrumhalf Brett Sheehan.
Harris said he has enjoyed the extra burden of performing in the pivotal playmaking role.
“I was kind of pushed into (flyhalf) originally when ‘Hangers’ (Daniel Halangahu) and Kurtley (Beale) were injured during my last year with the Waratahs, but I played full time in the position with Honda and probably now consider it my best position,” said Harris.
“My communication is certainly a strength and I’ve enjoyed getting my hands on the ball more often, whereas in the past I’ve probably been more comfortable at inside centre,” he said.
Harris, whose wife Hannah is expecting twins in September, said he was looking forward to joining a ‘family’ orientated team.
“One of the main attractions of the Western Force is that most of the squad have come from the east and have settled over in Perth in close proximity to each other,” he said.
“At the Waratahs it was a bit different, where the boys would travel in from all parts of Sydney and return home straight after training. I feel in Perth there will be the opportunity to spend more time with the team and build a closer-knit culture.”
Harris, who began playing with Warringah teammate Sheehan at age 10, said he was looking forward to linking with several close mates in WA.
“The Force has a strong Warringah flavour but I’m also really good mates with Matty Dunning and I went to primary school with Haig Sare,” he said.
RugbyWA General Manager, Rugby, Mitch Hardy said Harris brings experience and versatility to the Emirates Western Force squad.
“Sam has impressive resume in both rugby codes and has played representative level rugby for Australia A, so he brings on board plenty of experience,” said Hardy.
“He’s a very strong man and has that directness which enables him to play in both centres positions, but is also a creative player who has had a lot of success at flyhalf during his recent stint in Japan and at club level for Warringah,” he said.
“Having that skill-set and experience makes Sam a very valuable addition to our 2010 squad.”
Hardy also praised Harris’ management company, IMG, for their swift handling of the contracting process.
“The negotiations were seamless and we’ve turned Sam’s contract around very quickly, which is thanks to both Sam and his manager, Richard Colreavy.”
Position: Inside Centre/Flyhalf
Physical: 190cm, 103kg
Age: 29 (Born 30/1/1980, Auckland, NZ)
Super Caps: 28 (36 total matches for NSW)
Super Points: 20 (4t)
Super Debut: 2001 v Cats (for Waratahs)
Representative Honours: Australian Schoolboys (1996-97), Australia ‘A’ (2002)