Penrith tearaway James Fisher-Harris is set to be rewarded for a stellar rookie NRL campaign with a shock call-up to the New Zealand squad for the Four Nations tournament in October.
The 20-year-old has been under the eye of Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney, who told the Panthers forward that he was in calculations to tour England at the end of the year.
“He just said that he’s been watching me, that I’d been going good and to keep improving,” Fisher-Harris told AAP.
Kearney’s catch-up came as a relief to the Penrith rookie, who missed out on captaining the Junior Kiwis earlier this year after picking up a thumb injury that forced him to miss two games.
“It’s good to get that phone call, especially after not being able to play in that game,” he said.
“I was named captain and it would’ve been a big honour, but I just couldn’t play. It was hard not to play, but I guess it also benefited me because I could’ve played worse with the injury.”
An international debut would complete a stunning rise for Fisher-Harris, who has played 20 of a possible 22 games for the Panthers after making his first NRL appearance in round one.
Also a member of the club’s premiership-winning under-20s team last year, his strong performances were enough for Penrith boss Phil Gould to hand the Rawene product a two-year contract extension in June.
In the six games since coming back from thumb surgery, he has averaged over 70 minutes a game.
“It was overwhelming at first, but I’m a bit more comfortable now playing week in, week out. I’ve played 80 minutes a few times, and it’s been good,” he said.