Tauranga rugby star Nathan Harris has announced his retirement from rugby aged just 29 due to injuries and with a desire to focus on becoming a PE teacher.
The Chiefs and All Blacks hooker says it was time for him to move onto his next chapter following the continued discomfort from an ankle injury.
“It has been a massive year and it is time to hang up the boots,” says Harris.
“After playing 10 years of footy, my ankle has had enough, and it is time to move onto something new.
“It has been a really hard decision but at the end of the day, my body and my family come first. Next year I am looking at finishing my studies at the University of Waikato, moving into post-grad, and finally achieving my ultimate goal since leaving school and becoming a Physical Education teacher.”
Harris acknowledges the support he has received from his wider rugby family.
“Thank you to the All Blacks, the Gallagher Chiefs, Bay of Plenty Steamers and Te Puke Sports fans for the continued support over the years.
“I am really looking forward to the next chapter of my life and will continue to support the teams from the sideline.”
Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan says Harris has been a dedicated contributor to the game.
“Nathan has been an outstanding contributor for the Gallagher Chiefs, All Blacks and Bay of Plenty,” says McMillan.
“He is recognised among coaches and his peers as one of the best scrummaging hookers in the country. He had a lot of quality years still ahead of him but unfortunately, his injuries have caught up with him.
“He has been an outstanding Chief. Even though he has battled through injuries through campaigns, he has always been the one to put the team first, whichever team that may have been. It is a true testament to his character. We wish him and his family all the best for their next chapter.”
Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Michael Collins says Harris will be missed by the Club both on and off the field.
“Nathan, a passionate ‘Steamer’ has been a valuable member of the Chiefs Rugby Club since his debut in 2014,” says Collins.
“He has demonstrated across the years his resilience and determination to continue to perform at his best. Nathan’s contribution to the Club has been outstanding he is widely recognised by our Chiefs whānau for his work ethic and his humility, we wish him all the best for the future. He piko, he taniwha! Once a Chief always a Chief.”
Harris was part of the New Zealand Under 20 side which made the final of the 2012 Junior World Championship. That same year Harris went on to debut for the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
In 2014, Harris made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs against the Crusaders. After an impressive campaign with the Chiefs, Harris was selected that same year for the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship and their end of year Northern Tour. The hooker debuted for the All Blacks against Argentina. Unfortunately, injury ruled him out of international rugby in 2015, but he returned in 2016.
Harris had an impressive Super Rugby campaign for the Chiefs and lead to his selection for the All Blacks 2017 DHL New Zealand Lions Series. He relished his opportunities when they came, including playing in all three Lions Tests as well as two Tests on the Vista Northern Tour later that year.
In 2019 following a consistent Super Rugby season, Harris earned selection in the Māori All Blacks and was followed by an impressive provincial campaign for Bay of Plenty. Injury side-lined the hooker for the 2020 season. But he returned for the Chiefs in 2021 and was a key contributor for the Bay of Plenty Steamers provincial campaign.
Harris, Chief number 238, played 58 games for the Chiefs and scored 35 points. He has 18 All Blacks test caps to his name along with 10 test points. Harris has pulled on the blue and gold hoops for Bay of Plenty 42 times.