If James Fisher-Harris continues his steady progression through the Panthers ranks, it may be only a short time before the young Kiwi forward is making a name for himself in the NRL.
Fisher-Harris, 19, born in Rawene, New Zealand, has been a Panther for two years. He arrived at Penrith at the start of the 2013 SG Ball pre-season and was a member of the squad which went on to lose the grand final that year. But the disappointment of defeat has only inspired him to work harder to achieve his ultimate goal of playing in the NRL.
"This year’s pre-season was really tough. There were no light sessions, especially training in both the NYC and NSW Cup squads," Fisher-Harris said.
"The NYC camp was the hardest training I have ever physically done but that is what is required to be at that next level."
His efforts through the summer period were duly rewarded as he forced his way into the Panthers NSW Cup squad in the early part of this season. He has since returned to Cameron Ciraldo’s high-flying NYC team as a regular starter.
On the back of his outstanding form, Fisher-Harris earned selection in the Junior Kiwis side which played the Junior Kangaroos in the curtain raiser to the ANZAC Test last month. A couple of weeks later, he put pen to paper and extended his stay with the Panthers until 2018.
"The New Zealand experience was surreal. I never thought I would get selected, let alone hang around with my Kiwi idols in camp. It was truly a privilege to represent my country," Fisher-Harris said.
"(Then) re-signing with Penrith was awesome to repay the faith they showed in me a few years ago. My family was so happy, which made me feel like I am going in the right direction."
Fisher-Harris is currently battling niggling injuries which have seen him sidelined for the last few weeks. However the softly-spoken forward is determined to return to the field and contribute to the NYC side’s charge into the finals.
"This period, being injured, has been frustrating but it has made me realise the importance of physical preparation. I just can’t wait to return," he said.
Penrith’s NYC players live by the ‘No Study, No Work, No Play’ mantra and Fisher-Harris is no exception. He is a member of the inaugural FC11 Panthers Elite Academy cohort, studying a Diploma of Sports Development, and attends classes four days a week.
"Attending FC11 allows me to learn about everything rugby league, both on and off the field," Fisher-Harris said.
"It provides me a platform to create a career outside the playing arena (but) still with an emphasis on sport.
"Of course I would love to play NRL in the future but I am also focused on setting myself up for the long-term and creating other career options."