Roosters giant of the 70s Mark Harris loses battle with cancer

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The rugby league community is mourning the death of Roosters great Mark Harris, who lost his long battle with cancer at age 72.

Remembered as one of the game’s most damaging centres, Harris played in Jack Gibson’s Eastern Suburbs side that won premierships in 1974 and 1975.

Roosters fans won’t forget that 1974 grand final when Harris combined with Ron Coote and Arthur Beetson to cross over in the 19-4 victory over Canterbury-Bankstown that broke Easts’ 29-year premiership drought.

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media_cameraRoosters players in 1974: Ron Coote, Russell Fairfax and Mark Harris. Picture: Warwick Lawson

The following season Harris scored 14 tries but was ruled out of the grand final with a leg injury as Eastern Suburbs went back-to-back, smashing St George 38-0.

The hard-running back played 11 games for NSW, 11 for the Kangaroos and won three World Cups with Australia in four appearances in the 1970s.

In all, Harris played 223 games in the NSWRL, scoring 93 tries and kicking 20 goals.

The Brisbane Brothers junior had played two seasons for the Koni Tigers in Papua New Guinea before he was picked up by the Roosters. He played 195 games for Eastern Suburbs between 1970 and 1979.

Former Chooks Mark Harris (R) and Craig Wing were nominated for the Roosters ‘Centenary Team’”/>
media_cameraFormer Chooks Mark Harris (R) and Craig Wing were nominated for the Roosters ‘Centenary Team’.

Harris will also be remembered as the original NFL defector. He rocked the rugby league world when he decided to trial for NFL giants the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973.

Harris failed to turn heads at the Eagles and signed with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.

Despite his deadly size and speed, Harris was played at kicker.

He returned to Eastern Suburbs in 1974 before finishing his league career with the North Sydney Bears.

“Harris cut an imposing figure on the field,” the Roosters said in a statement. “He etched his place in history when he scored the match-winning try in the 1974 grand final.”

Originally published as Rugby league’s original NFL pioneer dead at 72

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