Home Australia James Fisher-Harris could be the only way out the Penrith Panthers dynasty can’t survive

James Fisher-Harris could be the only way out the Penrith Panthers dynasty can’t survive

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Jarome Luai and James Fisher-Harris together after the World Club challenge.

As rare as they may be, the moment a true sporting dynasty emerges, predictions of its imminent demise are never far behind.

Over the past three seasons, while they have become arguably the greatest rugby team the league has ever known, Penrith are no exception.

In perhaps the most enduring proof of their excellence, they have proven each of those calls to be wildly incorrect.

Since their first premiership win as a group in 2021, they have survived the loss of Stephen Crichton, Kurt Capewell, Matt Burton, Spencer Leniu and Api Koroisau, all the while continuing to win, win, win through their special brand of brutalism in rugby league. .

They have survived it all and defied decades of measures specifically designed to prevent a race like this from happening. There has been nothing they have not been able to overcome and they could very well claim a fourth consecutive premiership later this year.

But by releasing James Fisher-Harris to the Warriors, the Panthers are not only saying goodbye to one of the best forwards in club history, they are losing a part of their soul and one of the foundations that made all of this possible. . This is a loss that perhaps not even they can bear.

It’s not just a matter of taking the money they would have used at Fisher-Harris and paying for another accessory, although that will almost certainly happen.

Nor is it as simple as restoring his virtues on the field, which is shaping up to be a difficult task in itself.

Payne Haas runs more meters, Addin Fonua-Blake is more tackler, but Fisher-Harris is the most complete pillar in the league: he is strong in yardage, passing and offloading with intelligence, and he keeps the middle of the field together on defense.

Plus, he does it all every time he takes the field with a consistency you’d expect more from a machine than a man.

Not many can do what he does every weekend, but his impact runs deeper than that.

Success has many fathers, but ask the Panthers and they will all tell you the same thing. That furious quality they play with, the willingness to always pay the price for success and the endless hunger to fight, dominate and win – many of the Panthers carry it with them, but much of it comes from Fisher-Harris.

Fisher-Harris has been one of the pillars of Penrith’s incredible career. (Getty Images: Jan Kruger)

It comes from his attitude on and off the field, from his way of training on a daily basis, from the toughness that he gives off so easily and from the demands on his teammates in such a simple and direct way that emulating him is not a choice, but a vocation.

At its best, Penrith plays to the ravenous hunger of hungry dogs and Fisher-Harris is the undisputed leader of the pack.

Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo are probably the two best players in the Panthers dynasty. Cleary shared most of the biggest moments with Crichton. Koroisau was transformative, both in the skill he brought to the table and the space he could provide to others. Jarome Luai is his energy and Dylan Edwards and Brian To’o are his consistency.

But their most enduring qualities, the things that took them from champions to legends, are best represented in Fisher-Harris.

Determination, strength, coherence, unbreakable will and complete lack of mercy towards opponents, the will to speak; Even if Fisher-Harris isn’t always one to talk, when he does it makes an impact, like when they declared Parramatta were sons of Penrith, because he ain’t bragging if you back him up.

And although Cleary and Yeo are co-captains, much of what Fisher-Harris does well has transferred to the club’s other players. He doesn’t always need to be captain because he has become a natural leader, the kind of person others follow just because it makes sense for him to do so.

You can see pieces of him in players like Moses Leota, his accomplice who discovered a similar relentless energy, and in Scott Sorensen, who thrived so much in the environment Fisher-Harris helped create that he went from NRL official to one of the bullies. most decorated in the history of the game.

There is a clear pattern to Penrith’s retention strategy in recent years. To avoid the salary cap treacle that has claimed so many budding dynasties of the past, they had to identify the things on their side that they couldn’t do without, the building blocks of their success, and make sure they kept them.

You can lose Crichton, Kikau, Koroisau, Burton and everyone else, as long as you have a nearly unbreakable defense, enough athletes to master the yardage game, Nathan Cleary’s kicking game and the belief that you can come down a mountain.

This year could be much better than good. Penrith are favorites for first place, again, and the prospect of sending their outgoing players out as winners has been a driving force for them many times before.

But Fisher-Harris might be one of the few outgoing heroes they can’t replace. There’s no way to recreate it as a whole through players like Lindsay Smith, Liam Henry and whatever free agent Penrith spends their money on.

If there’s anyone with Fisher-Harris’ qualities on and off the field lurking in his endless youth nursery, it won’t come to light overnight.

You may be born with it, but you still have to learn it. Fisher-Harris himself was in first grade for four years before becoming who he is. It’s the kind of thing that can’t be found, only discovered, and that is almost impossible to buy, because you have to earn it.

Penrith will not fall apart. They’ve had too much practice at being cool for that to happen. Next season they will still be among the title favorites along with the Broncos, who are so different from the Panthers in style but so similar to them in manners, and probably the Warriors themselves, who must feel they are tantalizingly close to something special. .

But, many years from now, when the history of the Penrith dynasty is written, this could well be the day marked as the beginning of the end. There are some losses that a team can’t survive, even if it doesn’t kill them.

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