Lang on League: Fish departure sparks plenty of speculation

They say every cloud has a silver lining, which is just as well or the loss of James Fisher-Harris to the Warriors next year on compassionate grounds would be near impossible to see in a positive light.

Not that the man nicknamed ‘Fish’ can be replaced but it leaves the club with numerous options on how to at least try and find a positive solution.
Now let’s look at some of the positives.

One, it frees up an estimated $950,000 on the salary cap which can be utilised in many ways.

So how do you best spend the money?

Well, you can use it all and go to market and buy another topline prop to fill the position. The problem is there aren’t any props currently available on the market who are the equivalent of ‘Fish’.

James Fisher-Harris is in solid form. Photo: Megan Dunn.

No disrespect to Stefan Utoikamanu from the Tigers but as talented as the young man is, he’s not in the same league as ‘Fish’ just yet.

I also doubt that he is a realistic option with the Tigers determined to keep him and there are some very complicated caveats in his contract to overcome before he becomes available in the first place.

I also find it hard to believe that players like David Fifita and Nelson Asofa-Solomona are viable alternatives or the right fit to play for Penrith in any case.

I also can’t see the club signing a prop from the UK Super League either.
The best Penrith can hope for, as far as securing a truly topline prop, is to pick one who is still on contract with their current club but can negotiate an early release or be part of some sort of player-swap deal.

Normally this would be an impossible task and I still don’t like the odds of it happening but with Zac Lomax, Addin Fonua-Blake and now James Fisher-Harris all departing their respective clubs despite being signed years in advance, anything is possible.

James Fisher-Harris speaking to the media last week. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Another option available to Penrith is to spend some of the cash made available to re-sign Sunia Turuva, Daine Laurie and even Luke Garner to long-term deals. Their combined salaries wouldn’t cover the whole $950,000, so there would still be enough money left over to buy an experienced prop for around $400,000.

Or if the club goes out of left field, how about using a large portion of the money to buy a more experienced five-eighth?

At this stage Penrith is going with either Brad Schnieder or Jack Cole for next season but what if Jack Cogger or even Sean O’Sullivan could be lured back from their respective clubs?

Again, this is no slight on either Schneider or Cole but the club wouldn’t be doing its due diligence if it didn’t explore all of its options.

One idea which is definitely out of the equation, is enticing back either Jarome Luai or Spencer Leniu. For one, I can’t see either the Tigers or Roosters letting them out of their contracts or either player wanting to break them.

Whatever the Panthers decide to do with the money which has become available, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be a positive one for both the club and the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if like Fish leaving, the club has a big surprise in store for us all.

Peter Lang

Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades. He first wrote Lang on League for the Weekender in the 1990s, and worked for Panthers on its famous Panthers Magazine for several years.