Sam Harrison will depart Leicester Tigers in the New Year, with the 29-year-old deciding to pursue career opportunities away from professional rugby in Australia.
The scrum-half has made 172 appearances for the club since his debut as an 18-year-old against Treviso in the 2008/09 season.
Speaking about the decision to leave his only professional club, Harrison admitted to mixed emotions.
“It’s a very strange feeling, Leicester Tigers has been my home for almost 15 years,” said Harrison.
“You could call it a job or a profession, but it has been more than that for me and I’ve been so lucky to be able to do it for my hometown club.”
Looking back on his time as a Tigers player, Harrison admits he has seen a lot of change during more than a decade at Oval Park and Welford Road.
“I won’t accept that I am old just yet, I’ll only confess to being older,” he said through the wry smile he has carried with him since arriving as a teenager.
“I arrived in the academy as a 15-year-old, thinking I knew everything about the world, even though I’d never really been out of Hinckley.
“I am leaving as a 29-year-old father of three, who still knows very little, and I’ve still never really been out of Hinckley apart from the odd trip to Treviso or Ulster.
“But being at Tigers has taught me the values of discipline, respect and hard work, which has made me the man I am today.
“Above all, I leave a much better person for having had my time at Tigers and with some unbelievable memories, great stories and amazing friendships that I will be forever grateful for.”
I would never have been able to do all of this if not for the years of driving me around and continuous encouragement by my dad and the tremendous support of my mum, three sisters and brother.Sam Harrison
The decision, according to the man himself, was not one made in the calm and collected style for which he is known.
“I’m pretty relaxed about things and just let them happen, but this has been different,” admitted Harrison.
“Anything you have given this amount of time and effort to will be hard to leave, but now I have a bit of fire in my belly to do something different for me, my wife and my children. I always wanted to leave on my terms and I’m comfortable with this decision.
“I would like to take this time to thank the fans who have been amazing and have, for some reason, always been great to me.
“I would never have been able to do all of this if not for the years of driving me around and continuous encouragement by my dad and the tremendous support of my mum, three sisters and brother.
“Most of all, I would like to thank my wife Brodie who has always been there for me since I was 16.
“She has helped me through so much on and off the field, from teaching me how to do my post-match tie to telling me to just shut up and go to training when I didn’t want to. But most of all, for raising my three amazing children. I cannot thank her enough.
“I owe it all to Brodie, my kids, my family and close friends for their support over the years, not to mention the fans and the coaches I had both growing up and here at Tigers.
“It’s been an amazing chapter in my life and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”
Born in Leicester, Harrison played his junior rugby with Hinckley RFC and at John Cleveland College before catching the eye of the club’s scouts and going on to represent the Tigers Academy and Development Squad as well as England Under-18s and Under-20s.
I would be lying if I said we will easily replace what Sam Harrison leaves behind because he is one of a kind and the club is a much, much better place for having had him as part of it.Geordan Murphy
He was a member of the Premiership A-League winning squad in the 2010/11 season and was shortlisted for the Tigers Young Player of the Year award a year later after just 18 senior appearances and selected on the bench in the Premiership Final.
Harrison was used as a replacement in the 2012/13 Premiership Final win over Northampton Saints at Twickenham, and was voted the Players’ Player of the Season and shortlisted for the Tigers Supporters’ Player of the Year in 2014/15.
In the 2017/18 season, the Tigers Academy graduate celebrated a decade in the senior squad and the following year passed 150 first-team appearances for the club.
Head coach and former team-mate and captain Geordan Murphy admitted the loss of not only a senior player but a person of Sam’s standing in the squad would be hard to replace.
“His time as a member of the squad speaks for itself,” said Murphy.
“He has won almost every competition he has played in for Tigers and done it in the unique, tough and hard-working way that Sammy will be forever known for.
“Nobody can question his commitment to Tigers and his partnership with Ben Youngs is one of the best scrum-half pairings we will ever see in a Leicester shirt.
“I am so proud to have been able to play with him and then coach him, but even more proud to call him a friend.
“I would be lying if I said we will easily replace what Sam Harrison leaves behind because he is one of a kind and the club is a much, much better place for having had him as part of it.”
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Club captain and long-time friend Tom Youngs was equally glowing of Harrison’s contribution throughout his time at Tigers.
“There is nobody like Sammy and probably never will be, which is what makes him great,” Youngs said.
“He’s played his whole career in Leicester and wouldn’t have had it any other way. He loves this club and has shown it every time he has pulled on the shirt.
“I’ve loved being able to play alongside him and know that I speak for everyone in the current squad and all the squads he has been a part of when I say he deserves this chance to go out on his own terms and will be hugely missed.
“Whatever Sam does next, I know he will be great at in his own way.”
Sam Harrison’s final game for the club will be confirmed in the coming weeks and supporters will be able to say farewell to the scrum-half at Welford Road on Saturday, January 4 when Leicester Tigers host Bristol Bears in the Gallagher Premiership.
Keep an eye on LTTV for an exclusive, must-watch interview with Sam, looking back on his time as a Leicester player and best memories – on and off the pitch – at Tigers.