Penrith Panthers youngster James Fisher-Harris could be handed a shock call-up for New Zealand’s Four Nations campaign later this year after an impressive debut season in the NRL. The versatile forward has caught the eye of several observers while playing in a Penrith team currently seventh in the NRL ladder. and Kiwis head coach Stephen Kearney – who made it clear to the 20-year old that he was a player very much on his radar. With the Four Nations coming up in October, Fisher-Harris is now in line to earn his first international call-up, and he could have a role to play in the tour of England.
It’s been a mixed year for the forward: While he has established himself as an important part of this Penrith side, the rookie missed out on captaining the Junior Kiwis due to a thumb injury earlier this year. The next time he pulls on a New Zealand jersey, though, it could be that of the Kiwis, capping off a remarkable 12 months for Fisher-Harris. Having played 20 of 22 games for the Panthers this season, it hasn’t taken long for the forward to cement himself as a firm fan favourite, winning the Penrith crowd over with a string of solid performances up front for the team.
Fisher-Harris was a key member of the club’s premiership-winning under-20s side last season, earning a two-year deal after proving himself to Penrith boss Phil Gould. With the Panthers seemingly set for a top-eight finish, priced at around 25/1 in the NRL betting odds to go all the way and win the Grand Final, Fisher-Harris will have a great chance to make a strong case for inclusion in the upcoming tour of England. Having missed a spell of games with a thumb injury, the forward has made an encouraging return to action and handed a massive boost to the Panthers ahead of their last push for honours.
As he nears the end of his rookie NRL season, Penrith fans will be delighted with how Fisher-Harris has handled life in the big leagues. Blessed with some very useful physical attributes, the youngster also possesses a great attitude that has seen him handle the pressures that come with playing in the NRL. While Penrith might not be many people’s favourites to go all the way this season, the Panthers have shown more than enough this year to prove they shouldn’t be counted out by anyone. For Fisher-Harris, though, the experience of playing in the end of season finals will only help to improve him.
The immediate focus for the forward will certainly be on helping his team finish the season as strong as possible and he’ll definitely have one eye on making it into the Kiwis squad before the end of 2016. If he can maintain his form from his rookie NRL campaign, it’ll be tough for Kearney to leave him out of his Four Nations party. While the defending champions have a number of talented forwards at their disposal, Fisher-Harris has proven this season that he could well bring something different to this New Zealand pack.