Maori v Indigenous, teams, James Fisher-Harris, dementia, grandpa

When James Fisher-Harris puts the ball under his arm and tears up the pitch in Saturday’s NRL All Stars game, the Maori enforcer will have his ailing grandfather on his mind.

Fisher-Harris held back tears as she spoke to 9News about her grandfather, who was diagnosed with dementia.

“Me and my brother were at a loss for words seeing him like that,” Fisher-Harris said.

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“He was like the big tough man, you know? Just a little fragile now.”

Fisher-Harris was twice named to the Dally M Team of the Year and was crucial to the Panthers winning back-to-back NRL titles over the past two seasons.

He is also one of the toughest men in the game.

But he admitted in the 9News interview that he was a gentle giant off the pitch.

“Try to pick the positives,” Fisher-Harris said of her grandfather’s battle with dementia.

“I just try not to get emotional.

“But, yeah, it was pretty heartbreaking.

“I just can’t take things for granted. Tomorrow is never promised, so let’s just try to live as long as we can and give it our all.”

Indigenous speedster Josh Addo-Carr is among a host of top players who have withdrawn from the All Stars match, which will take place at Roturua International Stadium in New Zealand.

Maori representatives Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Joseph Manu, Daejarn Asi, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Starford To’a also withdrew.

But Fisher-Harris is locked in – and says his grandfather, who always knows who his grandson is, will watch the game with pride.

“I can just hear him telling me what to do and stuff,” Fisher-Harris said with a laugh.

“I think he’ll be happy to see the family name on the back of our shirts.”

Maori beat Indigenous people 16-12 at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium in last year’s All Stars clash.

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