Panthers enforcer Fisher Harris reveals his manager had to show him how to catch a train as he struggled to adapt after leaving his small Kiwi home town to chase glory in Australia
- Penrith’s James Fisher Harris left Kohukohu in 2013 to pursue his NRL dream
- The 26 year-old admits he struggled settling in to Sydney city life
- The 2021 Premiership forward says he puts the ‘city on his back’ when playing
Penrith star prop James Fisher Harris has opened up on the struggles he faced when moving from his home town in far north New Zealand to pursue his NRL dream with the Panthers – and admitted he didn’t even know how to catch a train.
Growing up in Kohukohu, a seaside town on Hokianga Harbour, about 300km north of Auckalnd, Fisher Harris was first introduced to rugby league at the age of 15.
The 2021 Dally M front-rower of the year admits that his arrival in Sydney’s west was not easy, as he was made to work hard for 18 months at Fernhill Farms equestrian facility in Wallacia, about 80km from the CBD.
Fisher Harris is pictured aged 17 while playing for the Northern Swords, a North Island representative rugby league side, before being signed by the Panthers on a cadetship deal
‘It was tough, we got sent out to Wallacia. We had to work for our food, looking after the horses,’ Fisher Harris said.
As a proud Maori man brought up in a village with only 300 people, Fisher Harris thanks his manager for helping him overcome the intimidation of city life.
‘Where we are from, it is different to Australia,’ he explained.
‘I didn’t have a car, my manager actually showed me how to catch a train. I didn’t know where to get off or how to pay for anything.’
The 26 year-old says a career in the NRL was his only wish after he became hooked on the physicality of the game.
James Fisher Harris trucking up the ball in Penrith’s 2021 14-12 Grand Final win. The victory was exactly what he dreamed of achieving as a kid
‘Growing up I watched the NRL just for hits. I didn’t care about tries or nothing like that. That’s what attracted me to rugby league’.
The Panthers hitman made his NRL and club debut in March 2016, after moving to Penrith in 2013 on a two-year cadetship deal.
He has since clocked up 139 caps, becoming one of the game’s fiercest forwards, known for his consistency and power.
In 2021, Fisher Harris averaged 158 running metres and over 30 tackles per game, which proved vital in Penrith’s premiership-winning season.
The 2021 Dally M prop of the year (pictured second from right) holds the NRL premiership trophy with fellow Penrith teammates (L-R) Stephen Crichton, Viliame Kikau and Brian To’o
For 2022, the six-Test Kiwis big man wants to back up his Dally M season and provide a platform for his teammates in defence and attack.
‘I want to lead the way from the front, be the man all the boys can rely on.
‘I put the city on my back when I play, it feels like home on that field.’
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary’s ‘from the area’ side remain undefeated in 2022 and will rely on Fisher Harris’ presence to start sets strongly and show controlled aggression in defence.
Fisher Harris will play his 140th game on Sunday when his side take on the Raiders at BlueBet stadium in Penrith.
The Panthers have won 20 consecutive games at home, dating back to their first win of the streak in round 19, 2019.