Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: It's a long way from the Hokianga to Sydney for Fisher-Harris

Rising Penrith prop James Fisher-Harris made a big impression against the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images
Rising Penrith prop James Fisher-Harris made a big impression against the Sharks. Photo / Getty Images

From the Hokianga to the NRL, James Fisher-Harris is going places.

The young Penrith prop is far from a household name - and has made only eight appearances for the Panthers - but has already been compared with Queensland and Australian legend Gorden Tallis.

Fisher-Harris, who will face the Warriors tomorrow in Christchurch, continues a proud Northland tradition at Penrith (following Sam McKendry and Elijah Taylor) and a few months after his 20th birthday is already turning heads.

"He doesn't say too much but on the field his actions speak louder than words," said Penrith and Kangaroos forward Trent Merrin.

"He's the kind of guy people stay away from at training because he puts a few shots on. But he's very humble, willing to listen and learn. He's going places."

Fisher-Harris has had an unlikely rise to the NRL. He grew up in the tiny Northland settlement of Kohukohu (population around 150), on the northern banks of the Hokianga Harbour.

There is a general store, a pub, a primary school and a couple of churches. And no league, which meant Fisher-Harris played rugby until he was 15, when he went to boarding school in Whangarei.

"I fell in love with [league]," said Fisher-Harris. "I loved getting more ball, [getting] one-on-one more."

He made an instant impact and was spotted by Penrith at the 2013 New Zealand Rugby League schoolboy nationals.

Fisher-Harris moved to Sydney in 2014, but adapting to the biggest metropolis in Australasia wasn't easy.

"It was hard to get used to Australia, very different," said Fisher-Harris.

"[Things like] catching trains ... I didn't even know how to catch a train. Stuff like that. It was crazy but everything worked out."

He played mainly SG Ball (under-18) in 2014, before making 10 appearances at under-20 level last year.

Fisher-Harris stood out, making 220m in one brutal display against Parramatta, but that is no guarantee of success in the NRL.

This season, Fisher-Harris hoped he might "get a debut or something" but he has done much more than that. He has missed only one game, becoming an established member of the Panthers interchange arsenal.

Fisher-Harris supplanted Taylor - part of the reason the 10-test Kiwi was forced to look for new pastures at the Tigers - and has had NRL scribes salivating about his potential, particularly after the recent clash with the Sharks.

Due to injuries, Fisher-Harris played an extended spell (54 minutes) and made a big impression against the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita. He made 15 carries for 132m, contributed 24 tackles and also crossed for two tries.

"I got some more game time and it was crazy," said Fisher-Harris. "I was over the moon, couldn't believe it.

"[Against the] big names, you need to aim up against them. Make sure you prepare better, mentally and physically, and you just want to take them on."

So far, Fisher-Harris is keeping his feet on the ground, helped by living with 12 other young players in "Panthers house", similar to other shared accommodation arrangements at the Warriors and Roosters.

"The main thing is confidence, starting to believe," said Fisher-Harris. "Everything is happening [for me], no injuries and I am trying to get better and better."

He won't lack for motivation tomorrow, taking on the club he idolised as a boy.

"When I was here [in New Zealand], the Warriors were my top team, I always wanted to play for them," said Fisher-Harris. "But it will be good to play against them."

- NZ Herald

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