Tohu Harris had to wait 300 days for his comeback match but he needed just 179 minutes to underline his gilt-edged value to the Vodafone Warriors as both a player and captain.
The 30-year-old 10-season veteran was helped from the field with a knee injury in the 18th-round clash against Penrith on July 18 last year.
A feared ACL rupture in his right knee was duly confirmed and surgery followed with almost 10 months elapsing between Harris’ 182nd and 183rd NRL appearances.
Yet despite such a long absence he went from zero to 100 in a blink.
It wasn’t until the round 10 encounter with South Sydney on May 14 that Harris was able to return to the field at last and also captain the club for the first time since being appointed last December.
Against the Rabbitohs he was used off the bench for 29 minutes either side of halftime carrying the ball 48 metres from six runs, providing quick play the balls, completing 24 tackles and not making any errors.
The following week against the Dragons he upped the output to 70 minutes, 155 metres from 17 runs, 35 tackles and no errors again.
Then last Saturday against the Knights he was on for the full 80 metres. His total of 24 carries was the best of all 34 players from both sides, his 162 metres was bettered only by teammate Adam Pompey (167) and his tally of 41 tackles (no misses) was topped by only Newcastle’s Tyson Frizzell and David Klemmer. No errors again, too.
It represents an astonishing return to the NRL after such a long lay-off and such a serious injury. Despite playing only 29 minutes against South Sydney, Harris has averaged 122 metres and 33 tackles in his three games so far, numbers that rate above his career averages.
Back rower Bayley Sironen echoed the sentiment across the squad when he spoke this week about Harris’ impact.
“Even just having him out there is a massive boost for everyone,” he said.
“I haven’t had a chance to play with him this year yet but you can see the control he has over the middle. He’s a calming presence but he always works his arse off.
“It’s a real boost having him back. He’s our captain, he’s got a great voice on the field, he doesn’t lose his shit much and you just feel really confident standing next to him when you run out there.”
Expect more of the same from Harris again against the Sea Eagles tonight.