TJ Harris is another shining example of what a year in North Otago rugby can do for a player.
Harris, the former Athletic Marist and Old Golds hooker, has just signed a deal with Wasps, the powerhouse club that sits at the top of the English Premiership.
It follows a couple of spectacular seasons for Nottingham and Bedford Blues in the second-tier Championship.
He hit the headlines earlier this year when he came off the bench for Nottingham and scored three tries in the space of 10 minutes.
“They were all from 50m out,” Harris joked to the Oamaru Mail in an email.
“No, two were from a back of a maul, and the other I broke off and ran it in.”
Harris said he was excited to have signed for Wasps.
His rugby career had taken off since he spent six months in Oamaru in 2013, but his simple goal for the coming years was to “be the best rugby player I can be and try to learn and improve all the time”, he said.
Harris is treading a path blazed by other prominent North Otago imports including Tom Wood, the outstanding loose forward who played for Valley in 2006 before going on to play 50 tests for England, and Djustice Sears-Duru, the prop who also played for Valley before becoming a regular part of the Canadian national team.
He said he would always look back fondly on his spell in Oamaru.
“I enjoyed my time with Athies and North Otago so much. I met some lifelong friends and some incredible people.
“I do still try to keep in touch with as many people as I can. The Kinzett family, I talk to as often as I can, Mark Robertson, the Waitaki Boys’ school pupils, and the island boys from Athies.
“I miss these people every day, and Oamaru itself even more. I would come back tomorrow if I could, but I will come back some day.”
Harris learned a lot while playing in the Citizens Shield and eight times for North Otago in the Heartland Championship.
“The biggest lesson I took from New Zealand rugby is the unstructured rugby, and how all the players, no matter what number on their back, are not scared to show their skills.”
A keen boxing fan, Harris would love to see New Zealand’s favourite pugilist up close.