As James Fisher-Harris stood on stage listening to tributes from his Test teammates and former Kiwis greats, he realised what winning the Golden Boot award meant to him.
With previous winners Stacey Jones, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Joey Manu, former Kiwis coach Michael Maguire and many teammates expressing their congratulations in a combined video message, the 2023 Golden Boot winner became emotional on stage.
“We talk about when we started our journey with the Kiwis together back in 2016 and to watch your growth as a player and a leader is unreal,”Joe Tapine Kiwis teamamte
“You’ve been a massive leader among the group and all the country. Best in the world, that’s where you’ll be. Congrats bro,” - Ronaldo Mulitalo.
“You so deserve this pal, we’ve watched all your hard work over the years and most importantly for the young kid from up in the far North, in the middle of his journey, to get an award like this, it’s so deserved,” - Halligan.
The humble and hard-working forward, who thought the award was going to his Kiwi roommate Joe Tapine, said the words from his teammates and coaches brought home the significance of the award.
“I think that's the best bit about it, you know, just like the respect thing that your teammates give and your coaches. That's more rewarding than the actual award,” Fisher-Harris said.
“Growing up I wasn't used to too many awards. I might have got some here there but yeah I've never got nothing like this.”
2023 Golden Boot: James Fisher-Harris
The Kiwi forward said having his name forever etched alongside players such as Wally Lewis, Brad Fittler and Benji Marshall as the first front rower to ever win the award carries a feeling of immense pride.
However, the Penrith prop couldn’t look past the historical 30-0 win over Australia this year as the most important reward for the hard work that’s gone into rebuilding the international powerhouse in recent years.
“I’m just honoured to be honest, that's pretty much the feeling. Looking at all those guys up there. Those are the GOATs and to be the first front row to get this award is pretty special,” he said.
“These individual awards are great but we just need to try and keep winning as a team and create a legacy that way for the international game.
“Those are the things that matter the most to me, like winning the big games. Just to beat Australia and win the first Pacific Championship cup that was pretty special.
“Those trophies are the things you actually win.”
After beating the Kangaroos for the first time since 2018 in the Pacific Championships final, the Kiwi captain is already bracing for battle when they reunite with their Trans-Tasman rivals.
“The Kangaroos have been criticised a lot in the media but no doubt they're going to come out swinging and we're looking forward to it," Fisher-Harris said.
“We want it to be like that. We want it to be like intense. We want it to be like Origin.
“We don't get the luxury of origin and stuff like that, this is our pinnacle… and we want more, we want ANZAC Tests and things like that and we’re ready for it.”