Creative Harris's 'surreal' homecoming

Different players will lace up their boots for different reasons this weekend.

 

Some are fighting keep their place in the team, others bear the weight of expectation of their club, but for Tohu Harris, his reason touches home more than any other.

On Saturday the Storm will play the Dragons in Hawke's Bay, the very region Harris called home for his first 17 years.

Hawke's Bay is a small region on the east coast of New Zealand, home to no more than 150,000 people. It is there that you will find Hastings, the town where Harris grew up along with his three older brothers, two older sisters and too many cousins to count.

Take a drive just 15 minutes further north and you'll hit Napier, the place that will play host to the Storm and Dragons on Saturday.

That is a concept the second rower admits he has a tough time believing.

"It is something I never thought would happen," Harris told NRL.com.

"To play for a team like the Melbourne Storm and have a home game held at my hometown it is something a bit surreal, something I never thought would happen.

"To get the chance to play for the Storm in front of family and friends and in front of the community I grew up in... it is exciting for me, exciting for my family and exciting for the community."

It is the first time in their history that Melbourne will play a home game outside of their own state.

The moment will hold such a significance for the club that the Storm will wear a one-off jersey, specially designed by Harris himself.

"I asked if there was going to be a training strip done and the next week they came back to me asking if I wanted to help out with a playing strip," Harris said.

"It is something I wasn't expecting but it was obviously a huge honour to be able to have a part in a Melbourne Storm jersey."

He doesn’t profess to having any design experience or an eye for the fashionable.

Instead for the project Harris drew inspiration from his native home and also one he has now come to adopt since leaving for the bright lights of Melbourne back in 2009.

The jersey contains a local Maori design with red and black features. The black represents the people, the red chieftainship.

Storm lightning bolts cover the front, symbolic of the Maori god of elements that according to local tradition helped the tribesmen settle in the region some 1,000 years ago.

"It is something that has a connection to the Melbourne Storm and the Hawke's Bay community," Harris said.

"I wanted to make sure it had a connection with both and I felt like I was able to do that."

So when Harris laces up his boots on Saturday he will do it for more than his place in the team or more than the burden of expectation. 

He will do it because he will represent so much more than himself.

Video courtesy of melbournestorm.com.au