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For close to 180 matches and 10 seasons, One New Zealand Warriors captain Tohu Harris had all but no experience of what it was like to start on the interchange.

Indeed, from 2015 until two weeks ago he had been on the bench just twice, once for Melbourne in 2017 and once for the Warriors in 2022.

So, when he came back into the Warriors’ lineup for their round 14 clash against the Cowboys, head coach Andrew Webster duly named him in jersey #13.

But then he pulled a switch for game day with Dylan Walker starting and Harris going to the bench. Same again for last Saturday’s encounter with the Storm. He played 49 minutes off the interchange against the Cowboys and 44 minutes against the Storm.

This week Harris has again been listed in jersey #13 for Saturday’s encounter against the Titans. Chances are it will stay that way with the Warriors missing State of Origin forwards Mitchell Barnett and Kurt Capewell.

For Harris the change of pace, as such, was both exciting and a little frustrating at the same time.

“I’ve enjoyed it. The guys have got off to some outstanding starts and that takes pressure off when you come on the field,” he said.

“Players are moving a bit slower than they would at the start of the game, more at my pace.

“But I get real nervous watching the start of the games (from the bench) rather than being out there.”

Webster had no hesitation slotting Harris into a new role.

“Tohu had been out for a while and Dylan had been doing a good job there for us,” he said.

“I had a talk to Tohu and he was more than happy to slot back into that role (on the bench).

“If I start Tohu and you get an injury like we did with Rocco (Berry) on the weekend, I’m always saying to him: ‘Mate, you’re going to have to stay there.’ I didn’t want to do that in his first couple of games back. He’s playing good footy and I thought he looked fresh and ready to go.

“That’ll work itself out when he comes back into the starting side.”

Despite fewer minutes on the field than he’s accustomed to, Harris still made telling contributions in his two interchange outings.

Against the Cowboys he carried the ball 14 times for 144 metres (56 post-contact metres) while making 26 tackles without a miss. A week later he again had 14 runs against the Storm making 103 metres (38 post contact metres) and finished with a team-high 32 tackles and no misses.

In his 12 appearances so far this season Harris has made 455 tackles – an average of 38 a game – with just 21 missed tackles while he is averaging 143 metres a game, second best of his 12 NRL campaigns.

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.

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