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'When Cockers was here he'd send Greg Bateman or Fraser Balmain running around the posts every day just for being fat'

By Liam Heagney
Sam Harrison (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

It’s safe to say that Sam Harrison is taking the new you for the new year challenge rather seriously in 2020. He could easily have stuck with the status quo and kept collecting the Leicester cheque that has been his way of life since making his Tigers first-team debut way back in 2000/09 thanks to injuries to Harry Ellis and Julien Dupuy.


However, he has committed to an ambitious leap of fate that should make rugby players everywhere sit up and take notice. With his body still in decent nick, there was potentially years left yet in his playing career.  Instead, he is packing it all in at the age of 29 and embarking on an alternative adventure on the other side of the world.  

“It either says I am stupid or that I am willing to try something new and take a risk,” he pondered when asked by RugbyPass to sum up what people should make of his decision to jack it all in at Leicester and relocate lock, stock and barrel to the Australian Gold Coast to do something completely different.

“I have always had interests outside of rugby that I always wanted to pursue more and more because I have been doing small bits of carpentry at home and started up my own little business a few years ago [Harrison Made] just making homeware and stuff out of timber. 

“More and more I have found myself wanting to do that and I am on the right side of 30, so why not do it now? For me, it was just more the right time. Obviously, I have got kids as well who are only just in school so say if I was to wait another few years, it gets harder and harder to do a move like this so just timing-wise it all seems like the right time really.”

(Continue reading below…)

Sam Harrison was one of the senior Leicester players to contribute to The Academy, the six-part RugbyPass documentary series on how the club develops its youth 

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He won’t miss the media side of being a rugby player. “I’ll be glad it is over. As lovely as all the journalists are you get tired of it, I suppose. You [RugbyPass] are officially my last interview so I’m going to give this one my all,” he breezily declared in midweek at the end of a busy media session where he was in huge demand at Oval Park. 


“I haven’t been given any interesting ones [questions] really if I am honest. They have all been, ‘Why are you leaving?’ I have been explaining myself all day.”

Let’s take a different tack then. What message does quitting so young send out to his sport, especially to youngsters in the highly regarded Tigers academy who are dreaming of having the career Harrison is nonchalantly turning his back on this Saturday when he makes his last Gallagher Premiership appearance off the bench? 

“We have got a new changing room now which has been good, all the young players are in there as well so a lot of them have asked me and maybe my decision might open up the eyes of some of the young lads – or even older lads – that you don’t have to play rugby until your body gives up. 

“That is something that is sort of cliched. The cliched thing is you keep playing until your body packs it in and I never really wanted to do that. Hopefully, other people will now do that as well. Even if you don’t have passions outside of rugby and rugby is your one and only love, you do have to have something else in the fire and luckily I have managed to sort of leave the game on my terms.


“Obviously there has been a lot of players who haven’t been able to do it that way. I’m sure there have been players who have retired who have struggled because they haven’t had stuff they have pursued. More and more, academy players are being made aware of that and I definitely know that here, Leicester along with the RPA [Rugby Players’ Association] make them pursue other activities outside of rugby other than playing on PlayStation.

“For me, it was just getting to that point where I would make my interests my job and make rugby my pastime. I thought Australia is a nice country, I can speak the language and it is nice weather… I have a few mates over there and I have got a mate in the area I want to live. I went over there in the summer, met a few people and sort of blagged a job. My wife has never been but she has taken my word for it that it is nice.

“We’re going to the Gold Coast, just south of it, and I’m doing carpentry. A lot of it I haven’t actually sorted yet. I’m meeting the bloke over there who I met in the summer. We have been in constant communication on email and stuff. It is very much going to be making my own way I suppose and seeing how it goes really. It is a bit of a risk but hopefully it pays off.”

With flowing locks and multiple tattoos, Harrison has cultivated a hard man look during his years as a Leicester scrum-half. Beneath that tough guy exterior, though, there are sure to be teary emotions when the final whistle blows at Welford Road and the local boy who did good takes the farewell salute of the home crowd.

“It will definitely be emotional,” he admitted. “I’ve got about 30 mates coming. I have got all my family coming and stuff, but I am more focused on the game, it’s just a big game for the club really. It couldn’t be a better week to go out on with such a big game.”

Tigers certainly need the points given their precarious position near the foot of the Premiership and while Harrison will no longer be part of the furniture when that battle for safety is resumed post-Bristol at Bath on January 25, he will be heartily roaring them on from afar.

“Obviously I am going to slowly turn into being a fan. I am probably going to give all the lads a load of abuse online and stuff like that. That is going to be an adjustment. Then I will have to watch the games at four AM or something silly. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.”


View this post on Instagram


? Sam Harrison sits down with LTTV to look back on his career at the club ahead of his final appearance for Leicester Tigers.

A post shared by Leicester Tigers ? (@leicestertigers) on

He isn’t sure which dressing room pals he will be cheering on the most. “I don’t know. I don’t want to say until I am a fan because I want to make my own mind up once I am a fan. I don’t want to jinx myself.” What he will admit, though, is how memories of the banter he experienced over the years will always generate a smile if he is ever feeling homesick while adjusting to life down under. 

“When Cockers [Richard Cockerill] was here he’d send either Greg Bateman or Fraser Balmain running around the posts just for being fat pretty much every day,” he quipped when asked for any particular standout memory. 

“That will always be something that will make me laugh because it is hilarious. Yeah, a lot of Cockers was… for me as a half-back, he was quite kind to me but when he wasn’t so kind of other players. it was quite amusing to me. But there are hundreds of examples of good memories here that I will remember when the time comes.”

WATCH: RugbyPass travelled to Brecon to see how life after rugby is treating Andy Powell

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Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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