Penrith Panthers bombshell as James Fisher Harris leaves to New Zealand Warriors

James Fisher Harris has been granted a release to leave the Panthers.

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

The bombshell news will see Fisher-Harris finish the 2024 season with the reigning premiers before moving to the Warriors.

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.

Things moved very quickly.

“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.

“While we would have loved him to stay at the Panthers, we wish him, his partner Natalie, and children Tahira and Deon all the best for their next chapter.”

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.

Panthers chief executive Matt Cameron said Fisher-Harris will not be talking about the sudden exit.

“James has been a tremendous asset to the Panthers, and as a premiership player, has been a true reflection of a team that strives to be a source of community pride,” he said.

“Joining the club as an 18 year old, he has become a world-class player, captain of his nation, and a leader of men. His impact on our club culture has been truly exceptional.”

“We look forward to watching James represent the Panthers for the remainder of the 2024 season and out of respect to all parties both James and the club will refrain from making any further comment at this point in time.”

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.”