Chanel Harris-Tavita still doesn’t know what he wants to do next year, except that it won’t involve rugby league and will definitely include more time dedicated to his love of writing.
After making the decision in May to step away from the game at the conclusion of this season, the 23-year-old is still working out what the post-NRL version of himself will look like.
He has been inundated with questions, advice and cautionary tales from all corners since he went public with the news, but through it all has never doubted he is doing the right thing.
“The way I see it is that the only person that needs to understand my decision is me, and I know deep down that it is the right decision for me,” Harris-Tavita told NRL.com.
I know the people closest to me understand where I am coming from. I don’t really need to convince other people why I am making this decision.Chanel Harris-Tavita
“At the end of the day it’s in my best interests and I am doing what’s best for me.”
The honest decision
Throughout his time in rugby league Craig Hodges, the general manager of football at the Warriors, has seen plenty of players continuing to go through the motions long after their heart has left the game.
He said the fact that Harris-Tavita was honest enough to recognise the need for a change, and then act on it, speaks to his character.
“I’ve got no doubt there are a lot of guys in our game at every different club that play because they can earn more money doing this than they can doing anything else,” Hodges told NRL.com.
“They may not necessarily love league and they may not necessarily enjoy what they are doing, but they happen to be talented at it and it’s their career.
It took incredible fortitude for a young man of [Chanel’s] age to be able to say ‘this isn’t what I want at this stage of my life’.Craig Hodges Warriors general manager of football
“I guess you could call it brave, but I think honesty is the key word. He is really honest with himself.”
Harris-Tavita adds that he is fortunate to be in a position where he can afford to sacrifice the financial security that would have come with signing a new deal, and if he gets the itch again he’s confident he can make it back to the NRL.
“I’m blessed to be in the position that I am, to step away from the game and go and pursue something else,” he said.
“I’m taking a break, not retiring. If I want to come back in two or three years, then I feel like I am young enough to get myself back into shape.
“I might not ever come back, that’s the reality of it.”
Harris-Tavita scores a try you have to see to believe
When the pandemic gripped Australasia in early 2020 and the NRL Telstra Premiership was suspended, like many players Harris-Tavita suddenly had an abundance of spare time on his hands.
It was at this point that he started keeping a journal and became more interested in reading about personal growth and self-development, eventually leading to him starting up his blog simplessons.com where he reviews books and offers thoughts on different topics he is interested in.
“I am keen to keep doing my writing. I will look to invest a bit more time into that when I stop playing footy,” Harris-Tavita said.
“I have a few subscribers now and they send me emails every now and then to thank me and ask questions, and I like to reply to those.
“I will pick up other hobbies along the way. I’m not too sure what they are yet, but that’s the exciting bit for me, stepping away from what I know and entering the unknown.
“I am hoping to do a bit of travel. I have always wanted to go to America just because Home Alone was one of my favourite movies!
“I will definitely spend a bit of time with family through December and then from January onwards I am going with the flow.”
His legacy in league
The Warriors knew they had something special right away with Harris-Tavita.
He got his first start in the National Youth Competition on his 17th birthday, the very first day he became eligible to play, and almost exactly three years later made his NRL debut in 2019, at which point he was already a familiar face in the wider first-grade group.
“There are three tiers that determine when you come back to pre-season each year depending on how many you have done. I think I’m nearly in the senior level and I haven’t even played 50 NRL games yet,” Harris-Tavita said.
“I started training with the first-grade squad really young… it feels like I have been doing it for ages, for a lot longer than I have been doing it (in reality).
“I am looking forward to a break… I have had quite a few surgeries, so I am looking forward to resting my body and not having to tackle 110kg props every week.”
Amazing try: Harris-Tavita's ridiculous kick
But that isn’t to say he doesn’t still have some lofty goals for the rest of the year, and it’s clear the Warriors still see him as a key figure for this season.
That point was best illustrated at last Sunday’s homecoming match against the Tigers, when interim Warriors coach Stacey Jones picked Harris-Tavita out of position at fullback on short notice for the club’s most important game of the year.
He rewarded that trust with a strong showing that included a try, 153 metres and some big defensive plays.
“It was a bit of a no brainer to move him back there…. I thought he was outstanding,” Jones said of Harris-Tavita’s performance.
“He’s made a big decision [for next year], but part of that decision was making sure that he commits to the rest of this year.”
Garner makes the break but Harris-Tavita saves the day
Harris-Tavita also has his eyes set on World Cup success at the end of this season with Samoa, who to date he has represented in two Tests.
“I would love to go to the World Cup and give it a red-hot crack… I think if we get a full fully fit squad then we will be a contender for the World Cup,” he said.
“That’ll be a good way to finish the year and then that might be the end of my career, who knows.”