You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Honesty session: Harris-Tavita hopes his journey helps others

The burning desire to be a NRL player is back for Chanel Harris-Tavita.

It's back so much that he decided to start his own mini pre-season three weeks before he was due to show up for the official one at the Warriors, and in the process suffered a groin injury that sent a temporary panic through the club's holidaying physio staff. 

Just eighteen months ago he had been honest enough with himself to admit the passion for rugby league had waned and he might not want to do it anymore. 

Today he's back because he was honest enough with himself to admit he missed it, a lot. 

During his first media availability since announcing his return the game and Warriors on two-year deal, the 24-year-old was typically thoughtful in his replies to questions about his decision to step away from the game and spend 2023 embarking on a journey that took him across several continents and ultimately back to Go Media Stadium in Auckland.

While he's not saying that course of action is for everyone, Harris-Tavita does hope his story will encourage others to ask themselves the tough questions during their career. 

"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," the 54-game utility says.

"If [my story] helps another player, not take a step away, but just be honest with themselves about what they want to do, that's awesome. 

"And if another player does take a year away, I'll tip my hat to them as well, because I know how hard it is to step away from the game."

After a year which included time living in Samoa, where he worked the land on his uncle's farm, plus travelling through Asia, North America and South America, 'CHT' found he missed the routine that comes with being a professional athlete. 

Now to some degree he has to rebuild his career.

He left as an automatic first-choice member of the 17 at the Warriors, which won't be the case, at least initially, in 2024.

But there's no thought of regret. 

"I wouldn't have known what it was like if I didn't take that step away from the game... it's made me appreciate what I have here and the opportunity I have as a rugby league player," Harris-Tavita said. 

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.

Chanel Harris-Tavita

"Now that I'm back I'm happy, I'm refreshed and relaxed and I'm not saying, 'imagine if I took a year off to travel'.

"I've done that. I am proud of myself."

The idea of being good enough to be an NRL player but not wanting it to be the sole thing that defines you, is at the centre of this story. 

Having a strong identity away from the game is something Cliff Thompson, the New Zealand Rugby League's wellbeing manager, encourages all players to focus on, and he believes Harris-Tavita's journey will serve as a powerful example to the next generation coming through.

"It doesn't matter what industry you're in, none of us would like to be defined by what we do for work only," Thompson tells

Chanel identified he's good at it, enjoys it and it's a career, but he's not defined by it.

Cliff Thompson NZRL wellbeing manager

"The courage to step away – to discover himself – they are big things he has been able to demonstrate to our rugby league community."

While there is a huge question mark surrounding where he slots into the team, which has five recognised halves on the roster in 2024, what is clear is that Harris-Tavita is a player coach Andrew Webster always wanted in his squad.

The reigning Dally M Coach of the Year began making calls to Harris-Tavita in February of this year to plant the seed about a comeback.

CHT bags a double

While he politely declined at first, Harris-Tavita said his yearning for the game started to become stronger as he watched the Warriors via a patchy Wi-Fi network in Samoa throughout the season. 

"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'," he said.

"I thought about the opportunity I have, still being in my 20s, to play as a pro athlete... I've got a lot of time to relax and rest. I realised that now was not the time.

"It's the time to take full advantage of what I can do."

Meanwhile the time away has also given Harris-Tavita time to think about what will be next once he retires properly, with plans to now return to studying to ensure he is set up.

The challenges often associated with life post-footy, or other times of in-career transition, led the Rugby League Players' Association to launch its Past Player and Transition Program earlier this month. 

Former Roosters and Sea Eagles forward Tom Symonds, who is now the general manager of past players and transition at the RLPA, said it's a crucial initiative. 

"Whether it be players who have chosen to step away or others who have not been offered a new contract, the feedback we continued to receive was that this cohort of players needed improved support services and initiatives," Symonds said. 

"It will provide opportunities to stay connected to the game and other players, as well as a range of services to ensure they are well supported as they work towards a return to the NRL or NRLW, or into their next career path.

"We’re excited to continue evolving and building on what is provided to retired players and those in transition."

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

Principal Partner

Major Partners

Official Sponsors

View All Partners