He’s only 19, but New Zealand Warriors five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita boasts Rugby League composure well beyond his years.
Yesterday he produced a match-winning performance as the Warriors beat the North Sydney Bears 24-22 to book an Intrust Super Premiership finals berth, snapping a six-game losing streak in the process.
His highlights included scoring the first and last tries of the afternoon, creating another four-pointer with a slick cut-out pass and booting the deciding goal. He also regularly found open space with his kicking game.
The scores were tied when the playmaker completed his try double in the 78th minute, giving the Warriors a simple conversion attempt for the victory. Harris-Tavita, of course, never looked like missing.
Despite his heroics at the death in claiming the vital four-pointer – where he crashed through a gap off a great ball from hooker Karl Lawton – the humble No.6 was quick to deflect praise for his role in the play.
“I saw Karl come across and I just called for the ball, closed my eyes and hoped for the best,” Harris-Tavita chuckled after full-time.
And though he didn’t show it outwardly, Harris-Tavita – the Warriors’ 2017 NYC Player of the Year – admitted he felt jittery as he lined up the final shot at goal from beside the uprights.
“The whole game I was kicking conversions and getting mocked about my hair,” Harris-Tavita smirked in reference to his shoulder-length locks.
“But that last one was probably the hardest kick I’ve had this season [due to the pressure].”
While the Warriors were far from perfect against the Bears, turning over possession too easily at times, Harris-Tavita said the team was pleased to grind out the result.
“The boys hung in there; it was an 80-minute effort. I’m really proud of them,” he said.
“North Sydney came out to play with all that was on the line but the boys pulled through in the end.”
As the Warriors turn their attention to the play-offs, Harris-Tavita is confident the side will rise to the occasion of sudden death football despite struggling in the back half of the regular season.
“It’s onto the next job now, moving into the finals. I’m really excited and all the boys are buzzing,” he said.
“I think we were really resilient [during the recent losses]. We had to win today, it was do-or-die, and we pulled through.”
Perhaps a harsh personal marker, Harris-Tavita said his form hasn’t reached the heights he anticipated during his first full season of ISP.
“It probably hasn’t been as good as I expected but it’s something I can build on through pre-season next year,” he conceded.
But before looking that far ahead, Harris-Tavita is hoping to prolong the Warriors’ 2018 campaign deep into September.
With more dominant efforts like Saturday’s from the fresh-faced pivot, the Warriors might prove to be a premiership dark horse.