Panthers rocked by fresh blow as James Fisher-Harris granted release to NRL rivals

Penrith have been dealt another huge blow to their squad after the sudden announcement.

James Fisher-Harris has stunned the NRL community after the Warriors announced he would join the club on a four-year deal next year having reached an agreement to leave the Panthers on compassionate grounds. One of the best front-rowers in the NRL, Fisher-Harris had two years left on his contract with the Panthers for 2025 and 2026.

However, the Warriors announced on Wednesday the 28-year-old prop would be joining the club on a huge four-year deal. The Panthers released a statement and claimed they opted to grant the player's request out of respect for all he had done for the club.

"Fisher-Harris approached the club this week with a request to return home to New Zealand following the 2024 season on compassionate grounds," the statement read. "Out of respect to the three-time premiership player, Panthers saw it only fitting to grant this request."

James Fisher-Harris (pictured) has stunned the NRL community having left the Panthers to join the Warriors on compassionate grounds to be closer to his family. (Getty Images)
James Fisher-Harris (pictured) has stunned the NRL community having left the Panthers to join the Warriors on compassionate grounds to be closer to his family. (Getty Images)

Coach Ivan Cleary claimed he will be sad to see Fisher-Harris leave the Panthers set-up. Fisher-Harris joined the club at 18 years old. "Fish has been exceptional for the Panthers, both on and off the field,” Cleary said in a statement.

“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.”

James Fisher-Harris celebrates.
James Fisher-Harris (pictured) is set to join the Warriors in 2025.

Warriors CEO Cameron George was thrilled to have the New Zealand international return home. “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to sign James,” George said after the signing. “It’s a huge signing for us, undoubtedly one of the biggest in our club’s history. 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.”

NRL world reacts to unexpected James Fisher-Harris move

The Warriors were looking for a big name signing after the loss of Addin Fonua-Blake, who will join Cronulla next year. The prop was their best forward in 2023 and has once again been immense for the club to start this season. And the Warriors will be thrilled to have signed on the New Zealand star to replace the loss of Fonua-Blake.

Fans were equally as stunned with the surprise announcement. Panthers fans were rightfully devastated to have lost the three-time premiership prop to a rival. While Warriors fans feel the blow of losing Fonua-Blake has been lessened with the welcoming home of a New Zealand star.

Losing Fisher-Harris is a big blow to the Panthers for next year. The three-time premiership winners lost Stephen Crichton this year and are set to lose Jarome Lui and Fisher-Harris in 2025. Winger Sunia Turuva could also be set to leave the Panthers in an attempt to seek bigger contracts at rival clubs.