Will Harrison will make his Waratahs debut in round one. Picture: NSW Rugby
Will Harrison will make his Waratahs debut in round one. Picture: NSW Rugby

Rugby’s huge code war coup over NRL, Roosters

WILL Harrison might be rugby league's one that got away.

Both the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs expressed keen interest in the Waratahs' new five-eighth when he was a high school student at Sydney's Marcellin College.

Most of his peers at the powerhouse rugby league school would have jumped at the chance to make inroads with an NRL club.

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But Harrison decided to tread the same path as former Wallabies coach and Marcellin alumni Michael Cheika and stick with the 15-man game.

This weekend, when the 20-year-old makes his Super Rugby debut, his father Mark Harrison suspects that NRL clubs might once again come knocking.

"Will played junior league, in terms of Roosters and Souths there was some interest and I think there'll probably be some more now," Harrison Sr said.

"They were sniffing around him in terms of playing junior rep, Ron Massey Cup, Jersey Flegg, SG Ball, those competitions."

New Waratahs five-eighth Will Harrison. Picture: NSW Rugby
New Waratahs five-eighth Will Harrison. Picture: NSW Rugby

Marcellin College didn't offer a union team when Harrison was at the school, so he paved his way to the Tahs through his local club rugby circuit.

He blitzed through Randwick Rugby's Junior Development Academy, captained the 2017 Australian School Boys team and signed with the Waratahs in 2018.

Harrison starred for the Junior Wallabies in the 2019 World Rugby Championship and played in Randwick's side when the Pumas came to Coogee Oval last year.

"It's always said that rugby's a private school game, but Will's a shining example that if there's good club competitions and pathways with clubs, you can still do it," Harrison Sr said.

"He went to a rugby league school, he didn't play private school rugby, he's taken an unusual route for rugby, and he's been good enough to get through it."

Much has been made of the Waratah's No.10 jersey this year.

After the departure of Bernard Foley, many expected Kurtley Beale or Mack Mason to fill the vacant flyhalf position for NSW.

But in the end, new coach Rob Penny has backed young Harrison to steer NSW's ship.

And for a kid who's about to make his Super Rugby debut against reigning champions the Crusaders in Nelson - a side that has won its' last 31 home games - Harrison is unexpectedly calm.

"I had a few big moments last year, I played over in Argentina in the U20s World Cup against France, and then obviously played against the Pumas at Coogee Oval," Harrison said.

"But it's a step up, going over to Nelson taking on the Crusaders and a few All Blacks in that squad, but I'm looking forward to it."

If he ever needs guidance on field, Harrison said he will simply turn to his experienced teammates on his outside.

"There are boys in the squad who are going to take the pressure off me, playing with people like Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt that's a lot of experience there," Harrison said.

"I know they're going to take a lot of weight off my shoulders and help me out when I need it on the field."

Harrison found out his childhood dream of playing for the Waratahs would come true over an Australia Day coffee with coach Penny.

The 20-year-old instantly sent a text to his parents - "book your tickets."

"This generation, they just text you," Harrison Snr said.

"Of course my wife Patrice and I are going over ... we're very proud of him, there's a lot of people in this area who have been involved in his development. They'll be sitting back pretty happy about it when he's on the field on Saturday."