Harry Johnson-Holmes is a professional rugby union player who currently plays for the NSW Waratahs and is described by the team as one of their rising front rowers. In 2019 Harry debuted for the Australian Wallabies squad and was rushed over to Johannesburg after the team suffered a number of injuries before the game. He said that this moment is one of his biggest accomplishments to date. Harry is currently studying Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Economics and shares some advice on how to juggle both workloads whilst still being successful. Read on to find out more!
Please tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from originally and where did you grow up?
I was born in the town of Cowra in central western NSW. I was there until the age of 10 where I moved to Newcastle, where I stayed until moving to Sydney and St Andrew’s College.
Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?
Admittedly I knew very little of college life until I began exploring my potential living options with my move to Sydney. Coming from a public school, I didn’t know many people that had gone to any of the colleges and only really found out about the details through a travelling visit to my school by current St Andrew’s College Principal, Wayne Erickson.
Ultimately, I wanted to live in a college that valued inclusion, given that I was coming to a new city and knew only one or two people in my fresher year. St Andrew’s was the obvious decision, being a co-sex residence that sought to move mountains to make its occupants feel at home.
What are you studying at university and why did you choose to pursue that particular course?
I am currently studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Economics. Put simply, I chose to study a BA because of my interest in social science. I decided a BA would allow me to maximize my educational opportunities whilst at university, tapping into phenomena that genuinely interests me.
What parts of College life were you involved in during your time here?
I was a part of two Rawson Rugby and Athletics campaigns over my 2 years at the college, winning both Athletic titles and one Rugby title. I was also the Head of the Highlander Bar for the shortest term in the history of the College (2 weeks, 1 day, 9 hours).
What was your favourite part about being at St Andrew’s?
I loved that Drew’s always made me feel at home. I didn’t get the benefit of transitioning from boarding school into college with a bunch of school mates, but from day 1, surrounded by strangers, I felt like I belonged at St Andrew’s.
I loved those moments at college events where you’d look around at the passion, the pride and at times – the insanity and just think to yourself “where else could you experience anything like this?”.
And of course, I loved the friendships.
(and rib night)
You are a professional athlete, but are also studying at the University of Sydney at the same time. How do you balance the two to ensure success?
I think routine is so important in being successful at anything. As a professional athlete, routine is a non-negotiable, whether it be training, a meeting or a game – you can’t expect to succeed if you don’t do what’s required to succeed.
As a student, routine needs to be a non-negotiable, whether it be study or an assignment or just showing up to a class.
I’m far from the perfect student nor the perfect athlete, however the better I can respect a routine, the better I can allow myself the best opportunity to succeed. It’s got to be tangible, and you have to find satisfaction in completing your goals, no matter how big or small. Little wins are still wins.
However, before you think I’m throwing out clichés to make myself sound like a golden child, I also want to add something else.
I failed… a lot. So much so that I lost a fair chunk of my Sydney University Rugby Scholarship in my first year and had to fight tooth and nail to retain the privilege of keeping that scholarship going forward. The issue was a combination of poor routine and a false perception that I had to try do as much as those who weren’t training 4 hours a day and pursuing a professional sporting contract. Everyone’s loads are different and there’s no shame in making adjustment to your study load to give you the best chance to succeed in sport.
What do you enjoy playing more – rugby for Sydney Uni or the NCR?
Whilst representing the country is something I love doing, my time at Sydney Uni has been some of the most enjoyable rugby I have ever experienced. Up the students!
Where do you see the future of Super Rugby in Australia heading?
I like the current format of a domestic competition into an international opportunity with the trans-Tasman cross over competition. I’d like to see rugby tap into the tribalism that exists at the roots of our game and having the passion of a grandstand at a Rawson final emulated at the Super Rugby level.
Would you ever consider playing rugby overseas? If so, which country would you play for?
I have always loved the opportunities that Rugby offers as a global sport and have always said that I want to utilise that at some point towards the end of my career. I’ve always said I’d want to go to the UK, as a British Citizen with a lot of family in England, but the rapid growth and excitement of newer competitions such as Japan and the US have thrown a curve ball into where I’d like to end up along the journey. I don’t think I’ll have to make a decision anytime soon.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?
It would have to be debuting for the Wallabies. Still doesn’t feel real and is a memory I will always cherish.
What do you enjoy doing outside of Rugby?
I have always loved music and playing music, so I play a bit of guitar whenever I can. I am very passionate about food and love experimenting with different cooking styles and methods – at the moment it’s a combination of sous vide and bbq smoking. I am trying to learn Spanish this year (muy lentamente). I also walk my dog a lot and love doing that.
What are you reading/ watching/ and or listening to at the moment that you would recommend to others?
I’ve just restored a 1977 VW Kombi so I find myself reading an old service manual for that a fair bit when it starts leaking oil or making weird noises, probably wouldn’t recommend reading that unless you have to.
I don’t have a single streaming service except for Stan Sport to watch Rugby, so not watching anything.
And I’m currently listening to a fair bit of Velvet Underground, Arctic Monkeys, Powderfinger, Radiohead, Missy Higgins, Thirsty Merc and Dave the Band (from Newcastle) – would recommend all of them!
How are you managing at the moment during the COVID-19 pandemic? (We hope you are doing ok!)
All good thanks! Not too many changes for me and so I’m very thankful I get to go about my business as usual and travel around playing footy.
What advice would you give current Androvians balancing their studies with other pursuits?
My advice to my fresher year self:
- Drop a subject or two
- Be proactive on seeking help – there’s a lot more out there than you think
- Set daily goals and take pride in achieving them no matter how little they are
- Train hard and study hard, but don’t let one negatively affect the other
- Spend your free time in the quiet library and don’t sit next to your mates