Test star a Uni patron
By GLEN SCOTT
HE'S no saint, but fiery Wallaby lock Justin Harrison has been ordained a patron of the fledgling Southern Cross University Under-15 rugby union team.
The Gold Rats Under-15s will be included in next year's Far North Coast age group competition, and the former SCU Under-19 player will launch the team at a dinner in his honour in Lismore early next year.
He is also hoping to be at the team's sign-on day.
With the NSW Waratahs training in Lismore in February, the Test star was thrilled to get the opportunity to put something back into the club that started it all.
"It's where it all began. To be named patron of this under-age team is very exciting for me," Harrison told The Northern Star.
"My time with the Gold Rats brings back many fond memories, and I've shown that you can play for Australia from anywhere.
"It's not easy but if a player as 'bad' as me can do it, hopefully these kids on the Far North Coast will believe they can too."
An Australian Rules player in his early years, Harrison took up rugby in 1993 aged 19 after coaxing from friends who figured his 2.02m frame was tailor-made for the university's 'Baby Rats' team.
His mates were on to something.
After a handful of games, Harrison was selected in the Australian Universities side, and three years after that he was signed by the ACT Brumbies for their inaugural season in the Super 12. He is now the incumbent Australian lock with 34 Wallaby caps.
Ironically, for a player whose aerial skills have him universally acknowledged as one of the world's best line-out jumpers, Harrison was anything but assured in his first game.
So much so, he nervously asked his then teammate, a centre named Brett Ulrick, what exactly it was that he was meant to be doing at the throw-in.
"I asked Brett what to do in the line-out and he just said, 'Stand four back and catch the ball'.
"I guess I got the hang of it after that," he laughed.