Highlanders sign Crusaders and Maori All Blacks flanker as replacement for Dillon Hunt
The Highlanders have acted swiftly to fill the void left by departing flanker Dillon Hunt by signing Crusaders loose forward Billy Harmon.
The 25-year-old has signed with the Dunedin franchise on a two-year deal in a piece of transfer business that comes less than a week after it was announced that Hunt will return to his hometown Auckland after signing a two-year contract with the Blues.
News of the one-test All Black’s exit was received as a hefty blow among the Highlanders faithful given the tenacity, efficiency and high work rate he showed on defence during his four-season spell at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
However, the capture of Harmon should be music to the ears of those in despair at the loss of Hunt, given the pedigree and experience that the former brings with him.
A former New Zealand Barbarians Schools representative, Harmon made his Mitre 10 Cup debut for Canterbury in 2016, where he has won two domestic titles and was again named in the province’s 37-man squad for the 2020 campaign on Wednesday.
Harmon went on to make his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2018, and has been part of three title-winning squads in the ensuing three seasons.
That same year, he was also named in the Maori All Blacks squad that travelled to North and South America, where he played against the United States, Brazil and Chile.
Despite this, Harmon had found game time tough to come by while in the Crusaders set-up, having found himself initially behind All Blacks flanker Matt Todd in the pecking order.
Todd’s departure to Japan this year opened a pathway to the franchise’s No. 7 jersey, but the impressive performances of Tom Christie and Sione Havili continued to block Harmon’s route into the Crusaders’ starting side.
That, he said on Wednesday, made it an easy decision to move to Dunedin, a transfer that sees him follow in the footsteps of former Crusaders teammates and current Highlanders stars Mitch Hunt and Ngane Punivai.
“I sat down with Razor and he didn’t have much to say,” Harmon said, as per the Otago Daily Times.
“My time’s up at the Crusaders and I’m excited for a new opportunity.
“It wasn’t a hard decision. I only had one option.
“The Highlanders offered me a good contract, the Crusaders hadn’t offered me anything.”
Harmon is one of numerous new signings expected to be announced by the Highlanders over the coming weeks, with incumbent head coach Aaron Mauger last month revealing that the franchise has up to 10 spots to fill for next year’s campaign.
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