Harrison aiming high with the Knights

Published: 26 September, 2020 - 12:20 pm

Representing your boyhood, hometown team is the dream for any sportsman and, on Sunday 5th January 2020, 17-year-old Myles Harrison had that opportunity.

Coming off the interchange bench to replace Matty Marsh at full-back in the pre-season friendly, Harrison revealed how much it meant to both his family and himself. “It was a dream come true to pull on the amber and black, especially against a club like Featherstone who we have such a rich history against,” he explained.

“It meant so much to myself and my family,” Harrison added, revealing that they are all Knights fans and have supported York’s rugby league teams for many years.

Of the build-up to the match and his time on the pitch, the teenager said: “When Fordy told me that I’d be playing, I was both ecstatic and nervous! Even though it was a pre-season friendly, the game meant so much to myself and my family.

“At the same time, though, I was completely focussed on the game and didn’t realise some of the players that were playing around me,” he admitted. “Not I look back and see the calibre and quality of players that were on the pitch – Grand Final winners, World Club Challenge winners – it’s quite surreal,” Harrison explained.

Despite making his debut and being thrilled to do so, however, the full-back commented on how he feels he wasn’t at his best. “I don’t think I played anywhere near the level I was capable of playing at and I did make a couple of costly mistakes,” he acknowledged before noting the support his teammates gave him in response. “The boys couldn’t have been more supportive after the game to pick me up and they reassured me that everyone makes mistakes, that it’s just part of the game,” Harrison said.

The build-up to that match saw Harrison’s first involvement with the first-team in late 2019 as pre-season got underway. “I can imagine that it must have been a bit weird for the players having some random 16-year-old turn up in the changing rooms one day,” he noted before confirming that the players and staff made him feel very welcome. “They welcomed me in and treated me like any other player and have taught me a lot,” Harrison said.

“I did have a lot of positives to take out of the game,” he noted in reflection of his showing in the match at Featherstone’s Millenium Stadium. “They kept me motivated to get back out on the field,” he elaborated. Harrison further stated his belief that he was continuing to improve in training and said “I’d never felt more ready to play at such a high level” before the season was paused and, later, curtailed.

“It’s unfortunate that everything had to come to a sudden halt but I now know the benchmark that I want to be at when we return to training and I cannot wait,” he emphasised.

The build-up to that match saw Harrison’s first involvement with the first-team in late 2019 as pre-season got underway. “I can imagine that it must have been a bit weird for the players having some random 16-year-old turn up in the changing rooms one day,” he noted before confirming that the players and staff made him feel very welcome. “They welcomed me in and treated me like any other player and have taught me a lot,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s rugby league journey began as a six-year-old at Heworth ARLFC. “I started playing at Heworth when I was a kid, just to give it a go, but then I fell in love with it and have been a Villager ever since,” Harrison said.

Discussing what it was about the game that made him so fond of it, the teenager spoke of his teammates and the power of the group. “One of the main reasons I fell in love with rugby league is the brotherhood and camaraderie around the team you play in,” he commented. “Your teammates become friends for life.

“It’s also a very tight-knit community because it’s not a massively popular sport, everyone respects and knows each other in a way. That has really been shown recently by the huge support of the rugby league community towards current or ex-players such as Rob Burrow and Mose Masoe,” Harrison furthered.

The youngster’s family have obviously had a huge bearing on his rugby league and Harrison’s first Knights game was the 70-10 victory over Workington Town in 2004. “I don’t remember anything from the game but I know that York but I know that Danny Brough scored about thirty points alone,” he admitted.

It isn’t just on the terraces that his family has had an impact on his rugby, however. “My dad coached us for about five years at Heworth which taught me the basic ins and outs of the game,” he explained.

Continuing the thought of the coaches he has grown up with, he continued: “For the rest of my junior rugby I had Jason Kane coaching me. He was a very committed coach who taught us a lot and helped us become a pretty good team.

“More recently, in Heworth’s first team, I’ve been coached by ex-York player Scott Rhodes. Scott has taught me a lot about my position having played at a high level, for example with Leeds Rhinos and the Knights.

That neatly leads nicely to Harrison’s time with the club and, of his current head coach and staff, the full-back said: Fordy, as well as the other coaching staff at York, have massively helped me develop mentally and physically over the last year.

“Obviously being thrown into one of the best semi-professional teams in the competition was a massive step up from Heworth under-18s and I had a lot to learn very fast – I even doubted myself at times – but Fordy stuck with me throughout,” Harrison explained.

As well as his coaches, the teenager paid testament to his family and friends as more than playing their part in both his love of rugby and his development as a player. “A couple of big influences of mine as a junior were some family friends from York who played in the Hull KR academy, so as a youngster I always looked up to them and wanted reach the level that they played at.

“However, more recently my biggest influence has been my family, mainly my late grandad. My grandad was a lifelong York fan, as well as my Dad, who both used to enjoy going down to Clarence Street every weekend to watch the Wasps.

“Therefore, the biggest thing that motivates me to do well is doing my family proud.”

Harrison, who explained how he currently prefers playing full-back but could see himself developing in the future into a half-back, then shared the players he has looked up to in the past. “I’ve always been a massive fan of players such as Billy Slater, Andrew Johns, Darren Lockyer and have spent hours watching their highlights on repeat trying to absorb as much as I can from their playing style,” he imparted.

“More recently, though, I have become a big fan of Kalyn Ponga due to his incredible talent and ability on the rugby pitch to beat anyone and score tries for fun.

“Matty Ashton is another play I idolise due to the fact that a couple of years ago he was in a very similar position that I am in, now he is playing at the top level scoring tries week in week out,” Harrison added.

His arrival in the Knights’ first-team set up came after initially impressing as part of the club’s Excel program, a program which provides young players with access to high-quality coaching, regardless of ability. On the program, Harrison said: “I got involved with it after seeing it advertised and I thought it was a good opportunity to be involved with the Knights.

“The program taught me a lot such as developing my physical and mental skills on and off the field and gave me a taste of what it is like playing at the professional level since we were training at the state of the art York St John University Sports Park as well as playing at Bootham Crescent and The Mend-A-Hose Jungle,” he explained.

Now, Harrison is aiming for a big career in the game and outlined his delight at signing again for the club. “I’m absolutely over the moon to be staying with the Knights. I learned more from Fordy and the players in six months than I have in ten years of playing rugby league,” he reasoned.

“My ambitions in rugby league are to extend my knowledge and make a name for myself at the Knights,” Harrison continued, adding his desire to test himself at the very highest level in the shape of international honours.

“They are very high ambitions but only a year ago I was training at Heworth with a handful of people and now I’m a player at one of the best clubs in the Championship.”

#WeAreYork