Penrith a market force as Warriors add Fisher-Harris

Penrith are set to become a surprise player in the NRL’s transfer market after releasing James Fisher-Harris to take up a four-year deal with the Warriors.

The Panthers confirmed on Wednesday that they would allow Fisher-Harris to return to New Zealand on compassionate grounds at the end of this season. 

The Kiwi international missed an NRL game this year following a family bereavement.

The 28-year-old prop's capture has been lauded by Warriors chief executive Cameron George as one of the biggest signings in the club’s history.

Fisher-Harris’s exit is a bitter blow for Ivan Cleary, who has fine-tuned the prop into one of the competition’s most damaging and intimidating front-rowers.  

But the silver lining for the Panthers is that Fisher-Harris’s exit will free up north of $900,000 in unforeseen salary-cap room.

The Panthers, who will also lose five-eighth Jarome Luai to the Wests Tigers in 2025, will want to replenish their forward stocks, with Tigers prop Stefano Utoikamanu the best-credentialled alternative to replace Fisher-Harris.

The New Zealander's exit allows Penrith to resharpen their focus on retaining players already at the club.

Winger Suniva Turuva has been heavily linked with a switch to St George Illawarra, but Fisher-Harris’s departure could strengthen Penrith’s hopes of retaining him.

"'Fish' has been exceptional for the Panthers, both on and off the field," Cleary said.

"The leadership and cultural impact he has displayed since coming into first grade has been outstanding.

James Fisher-Harris and Brian To’o.
James Fisher-Harris and Brian To’o celebrate at the Panthers' fan day after their 2023 title win.

"He’s evolved into one of the game’s elite players, and coaching him has been a pleasure."

Fisher-Harris’s return to New Zealand allows the forward to fulfil a lifelong ambition of playing for the Warriors.

In an interview with AAP in 2023, the prop said his rejection from the club as a junior in Northland fuelled his desire to crack the NRL. 

"It definitely gave me an edge when they overlooked me,” Fisher-Harris said. 

"But that would be like every Kiwi who has come over to Australia.”

Fisher-Harris’s arrival in Auckland replenishes an already stacked forward pack.

His move will offset the loss of Addin Fonua-Blake, who has agreed to join Cronulla next season, also on personal grounds.

“It’s going to be fantastic having James with us," said Warriors coach Andrew Webster.

"He’s one of the game’s elite players, a super tough forward who sets and demands the highest standards.

“I loved working with him at the Panthers, and we really look forward to bringing him into our system from next season. 

“He’ll add terrific value to our roster, to the club overall, and he’ll also be invaluable as a mentor for our young players coming through.”

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