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Chanel Harris-Tavita’s feet started to itch for the NRL again with coconut in hand on a Samoan farm.
One last jaunt with the backpack to Brazil had the returning Warriors utility ready “to ring Webby [coach Andrew Webster] and say I’m backing out.”
But for one of the younger players thrust into professional rugby league – Harris-Tavita became eligible to play for the Warriors under-20s on his 17th birthday in 2016, and so that day he did exactly that – the itch proved impossible to ignore.
So much so that after a year’s travelling Europe, Bali, Thailand, North and South America as well as Samoa, Harris-Tavita started his Warriors pre-season early, promptly tweaking his groin in a goalkicking session with Daryl Halligan.
Harris-Tavita raised eyebrows when he was off-contract 18 months ago and realising his passion for rugby league had waned, he walked away from a six-figure salary to work out he wanted.
Working on his uncle’s farm in the Samoan village of Afega, population 2000, and collecting coconuts on weekends, it all twigged for the 24-year-old.
Chanel Harris-Tavita during his last stint for the Warriors.Credit: NRL Photos
“It was a very simple life over there,” Harris-Tavita said, having kept up with the Warriors stunning rise to a grand final qualifier under Webster when he could.
“It really put life into perspective and made me appreciate what I have here. It was a bit of happiness and a bit of FOMO [fear of missing out]. I was in Samoa watching them play and the Wi-Fi wasn’t great.
“I kept a close eye on them and that’s one of the reasons why I came back to the club. I saw a lot of potential and I think we can go a step further next year.
Chanel Harris-Tavita (centre) with Nathan Cleary and Pat Carrigan in Prague after the 2022 World Cup.Credit: Instagram
“The longer I thought about it, the more I watched the boys, the more time I had to myself, I thought, ‘Look, I’m young enough to get myself back into shape’.
“I thought about the opportunity I have, still being in my 20s, to play as a pro athlete … It’s the time to take full advantage of what I can do.”
Harris-Tavita returns to the Warriors on a two-year deal, with a mutual option for 2026, that compares favourably to the money he was earning in his last contract.
He had other NRL options and spoke to his former coach Todd Payten and the Cowboys, among them.
Given the Warriors have playmakers Shaun Johnson, Luke Metcalf, Te Maire Martin and Ronald Volkman in their top 30 this season, there are no guarantees for Harris-Tavita.
“Life is about making mistakes and learning from them and even if it wasn’t the right decision for me, I’m still willing to own that decision and I know that back then that was the best decision for me,” Harris-Tavita said.
“I just urge players to be honest with themselves. Only you know deep down how you’re feeling about whatever situation you are in.
“Even if it’s going against the grain, just back yourself … Now that I’m back, I’m refreshed, I’m happy and I’m not saying ‘imagine if I took a year off to travel’.
“I’ve done it and I’m proud of myself for that, I’m back and I’m ready to go.”
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