Andrew Johns, Brad Fittler weigh in on James Fisher-Harris jumping ship from the Panthers

NRL greats Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns have weighed in on today’s bombshell that saw star forward James Fisher-Harris jump ship from Penrith to the New Zealand Warriors.

The Kiwi captain has signed with the Warriors on a four-year-deal, the New Zealand club confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.

Fisher-Harris will finish the 2024 season with the reigning premiers before moving to the Warriors, in a move that could put the overseas side in the hot seat for the spiky end of the season.

The Panthers announced on Wednesday the 28-year-old was released from the final two years of his contract on “compassionate ground”.

The only place to watch every game of every round LIVE with no ad-breaks during play is Fox League, available on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial today >

The Panthers said in a statement Fisher-Harris approached the club this week about his request to walk away.

“Fish has been exceptional for the Panthers, both on and off the field,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.

“The leadership and cultural impact he has displayed since coming into first grade has been outstanding. He’s evolved into one of the game’s elite players, and coaching him has been a pleasure.

Fittler, who won a premiership with the Panthers in 1991, said the move will have major implications out west as they scramble to find a suitable replacement for 2025 and onwards.

“Shows you the relationship between himself and the club though. He’s been at the front of that pack and most probably got a lot out of his body,” Fittler said on Freddy and the Eighth on Channel Nine.

“It’s fitting, it’s a big decision by Penrith, you’ve gotta say. You’ve gotta respect Penrith in this situation … what other front-rowers are out there?”

On the other hand, Johns said Penrith would likely need to shop overseas to fill the void. He also mentioned how often Penrith’s star players have been poached after years of strong development.

“They’ll have to buy a play one prop. Maybe they go to England to get one of the big boys over there?” Johns said.

“You look at the players who have left to other clubs, they’re the best players. (Angus) Crichton and (Viliame) Kikau at the Bulldogs, they’ve changed them around.”

Since making his NRL debut in 2016, Fisher-Harris has played 183 NRL games for the Panthers, four matches for the Maori All Stars and 15 Test matches for New Zealand.

He was named the Kiwis captain last year and won the 2023 Golden Boot Award as the best international player in the world.

The Warriors were reported to have salary cap cash to splurge ahead of the departure of star forward Addin Fonua-Blake at the end of the 2024 season.

Fisher-Harris appears to be a perfect replacement.

“It’s a huge signing for us, undoubtedly one of the biggest in our club’s history,” Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.

“To be able to add a player of his calibre and standing to our squad is a tremendous boost for 2025 and beyond. He’s such a highly-respected player and leader.”

Warriors coach Andrew Webster has previously worked with Fisher-Harris when the pair were with the Panthers in 2022.

“It’s going to be fantastic having James with us,” Webster said in a statement released by the club.

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

“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.”