“I was pretty distraught”: Leota opens up about Fish’s departure

Penrith forward Moses Leota. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Three-time premiership-winning prop Moses Leota has long been regarded as one of the toughest men to ever pull on a Panthers jersey.

Since he was a young teenager, he’s put his body on the line for his teammates.

He’s bled for Penrith.

But when his best mate, James Fisher-Harris, confided in him about his decision to leave the Panthers at the end of the year, Leota felt his world crashing down around him.

“He told me the night before he told the rest of the boys,” the 28-year-old revealed to the Weekender on Tuesday.

“I sort of knew something was up – you could feel the energy – then he ended up coming out and telling me.

“I was pretty distraught.”

Fisher-Harris’ monumental decision to quit the Panthers for his hometown New Zealand Warriors sent shockwaves through the playing group and wider NRL community.

Leota said hearing the news first-hand “hurt”, but he understood the decision his fellow ‘bash brother’ had to make for himself and his family.

“I remember when he told me… I was speechless. It didn’t really sink in until a few days later,” Leota said.

“I’m happy for him but I’m going to really miss the bro. The heart wants what the heart wants.”

Moses Leota chats with Weekender journalist Nathan Taylor. Photo: Melinda Jane.

The New Zealand skipper was granted an early release by the Panthers on compassionate grounds.

Born in Auckland himself, Leota said he has no plans to follow his best friend out the door and back across the Tasman.

“Nah, nah… I’ve still got a few years left on contract,” the St Marys junior confirmed.

“But it was tough for him because he doesn’t have much family here. Most of his family is back home in New Zealand.

“I already have family here. I’ve got heaps of family here and he doesn’t. That’s why he was feeling a bit home sick not having that family environment around him. That was a big cause for him to go.”

Armed with more than $900,000 in salary cap space, Penrith have a huge decision on their hands as to how they are going to spend the money freed up from Fisher-Harris’ contract.

Moses Leota in action. Photo: NRL Images.

While they pursued Titans forward David Fifita hard last week, they missed their man and now have to continue their hunt for his replacement.

Leota said the club should look to shore-up its current talent first before looking externally for players to join Penrith’s pack.

“To be honest, I feel like we have the players here to step up in Lindsay [Smith], Horse (Liam Henry) and Eiso (Matt Eisenhuth),” he said.

“I believe we’ve got the players already, but whatever the club wants to do is up to them.

“I’ve got faith in the boys here to get the job done.”


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