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Long time teammate Nathan Cleary said he is still coming to terms with James Fisher-Harris’ departure but he understands it’s time for the star prop to go home.

Ten years and three premierships since the pair met playing SG Ball in 2014, the Panthers skipper said the ‘irreplaceable’ prop will leave a gaping hole when he joins the Warriors in 2025 but his legacy of success will live on.

“It was definitely a shock but 'Fish' explained to us his reason and it's obviously more than understandable,” Cleary told

“He's been away from home and away from family for more than 10 years now.

“What he's been able to do with this club, he’s a legacy really, for guys to carry on and people will tell stories about him for years to come.

2023 Golden Boot: James Fisher-Harris

“We both debuted in the same year, we played SG Ball together from the age of 17, so we've been through the whole journey together.

“But he's got a beautiful family now and he’s just taking the next step on his journey.

“It's very sad, but I'm very proud of the person and the leader he's become and I'm sure he'll only develop that more back in New Zealand.

“No matter what happens to him, he's always going to be a Panthers legend and I’m lucky enough to have shared success with him.”

Panthers v Wests Tigers: Round 7

Fisher-Harris signed a four-year deal with the Warriors for next season after the Panthers confirmed on Wednesday that the 28-year-old had been granted a release on compassionate grounds from the final two-years of his contract.

Seemingly set to finish his career a one-club player, the news not only sent shockwaves through the NRL community but even right-hand man Moses Leota.

“It really got me spinning but the heart wants what the heart wants and his heart says go back home so I’m happy for him," the fellow Kiwi forward said.

"It was pretty weird, when he told me, my head was just spinning and I didn’t know what was going on, but I’m happy for him.

“I’m going to miss the bro but that’s footy, we’ll just make the most of every day and try and stay present with each other.”

With Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu already gone and five-eighth Jarome Luai heading to Wests Tigers at the end of the season, some suggest the Panthers' dynasty could be coming to an end.

However, the Penrith pair are determined to once again defy the odds of their departures and embrace the opportunities and challenges that await the next generation.

James Fisher-Harris, Nathan Cleary and Moses Leota celebrate the 2021 Grand Final win.
James Fisher-Harris, Nathan Cleary and Moses Leota celebrate the 2021 Grand Final win. ©NRL Photos

“It is motivating. Romey [Luai] and Fish, they're people that you can't replace like for like, they’re so unique and such great players,” Cleary said.

“But obviously were going to forge on some new journeys and it gives other people new opportunities now and I think that's exciting too.”

Leota, meanwhile, knows the future is in good hands with the young forwards still rolling off the production line at Penrith.

“Fish is a man of few words but he leads from the front on and off the field and that's what we'll miss,” Leota said.

"But we're used to changes and it's just a matter of helping the next man step up and there’s Horse (Liam Henry), Ron (Luron Patea) and Presto (Preston Riki), so the future’s still looking bright.”

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