Chris Harris on his life-changing rugby journey and how drinking from his prosthetic leg is ‘a rite of passage’ for HKCC’s seconds
The 30-year-old takes to the field in the Hong Kong Premiership’s A competition as grand championship play-offs begin this weekend
When you think of the uses for a prosthetic leg, unless you are a teammate of Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC’s Chris Harris then “drinking vessel” likely doesn’t come to mind.
And while Harris losing his left leg 15 centimetres below his knee at the age of three is no laughing matter, the 30-year-old is able to find the funny side of the role his fake limb plays in the fabric of HKCC’s Premiership A team.
“It is good for team building. It has become something of a rite passage at Cricket Club for new guys that play with me [to drink from the leg], especially if you have a bad day,” Harris says.
Harris’ courage has had a profound impact on the Hong Kong rugby community since the Englishman decided to start playing rugby again nearly six years ago after stopping at the age of 11.
“The usual reaction, if someone hasn’t seen me play before and I tell them about it, is they tend to be a little bit sceptical,” he said.
“There are a lot of guys who I have played with who didn’t know until they had played one or two games with me, because it’s not really that noticeable.
“Surprise is a lot of the reaction but I think the general thing is just a lot of respect and I am quite happy that most people treat me as a normal teammate and expect me to do my fair share of work.
“There have been a fair few people who I have spoken to who have been like ‘I’m not sure if I really want to play rugby, I’m a bit out of shape’ or stuff like that and then I say, ‘we’ll I’m playing with one leg’ and they’re like, ‘being a bit out of shape sounds like a terrible excuse, maybe I will give it a crack again’.”
Harris, who plays predominantly in the second row, says joining a rugby community that has embraced him was a life-changing move.
“Mentally and socially it really gave me a confidence boost,” he said. “If you are in a good team environment with a good bunch of people around you and supporting you, even if the results aren’t going your way it gives you a confidence boost all the time.”
Harris, who lost his leg after falling in front of a ride-on lawnmower, has risen through the ranks in his time with HKCC and is a key figure in their seconds, even sitting on the bench for the Premiership side on a couple of occasions.
He also became an international player last year, representing Hong Kong in their first ever rugby league test match against Japan in November.
“It was a great day,” Harris said, explaining that his prosthetic leg doesn’t hinder him as much as one might think.
“I tape the knee bit where it joins up quite heavily so most people think I’ve just got a slightly bung knee when they see me play.
“One of the big [challenges] is a slight lack of feel on that side, because I have had the leg so long I am used to it, but it’s more like fine control [that is lacking].
“Having no ankle means the twisting motion is not quite as sharp, but it is still pretty good with the technology I’ve got. The biggest one is the fact it makes me slower.”
HKCC take on Societe Generale Valley in the Premiership A competition on Saturday as the grand championship play-offs get under way.
In the Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership, HKCC and Valley also lock horns, while Bloomberg HK Scottish tackle Kowloon for a place in the semi-finals.