Sharing Lockdown Lessons from inspiring teams and athletes in different sports from around the world.

“Nobody Cares. Work Harder.” The mantra pushing the one team to grand final glory.

Original article by Adrian Proszenko, Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald October 2020.

Of all of the inspirational quotes that adorned the makeshift gym in James Fisher-Harris’ home during COVID lockdown, none resonated more than those four words from Lamar Jackson.

The Baltimore Ravens quarterback coined the phrase when the reigning NFL MVP began wearing t-shirts with the mantra emblazoned on it. It has subsequently been borrowed by the Los Angeles Lakers and also served as the inspiration for the Panthers to maintain their work ethic when the competition shut down.

Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Viliame Kikau and Zane Tetevano alternated as training partners during those six weeks when the season was in limbo. Every day they pushed each other to the absolute limit in the belief this was a premiership that would be won during lockdown.

“Every session. All the time. It was always the same intensity,” Fisher-Harris said.

“We just bounce off each other. We are working towards something.”

James Fisher-Harris 

When equipment from the Panthers gym was divvied up among the players, Fisher-Harris ended up with an assault bike and the majority of the weights. His main training partner, Tetevano, made do with a watt bike and some barbells. They chronicled their journey via a series of videos, which they reflected on the day after the Panthers booked their first grand final appearance in 17 years, via a semi-final win against South Sydney.

“That’s a story on its own,” Tetevano said. “We made sure we were training every day.

“Me and Fish, we were just talking about it [on Sunday]. In that period we had our videos and we were showing each other the memories, why we are here today.

“We were making sure we were accountable. It’s paying off now, we always talk about it.

“We knew we put in a lot of work during that six-week break. We haven’t stopped ever since.”

Their efforts have been rewarded. Prop Fisher-Harris and back-rower Kikau were named in the Dally M team of the year, while Tetevano has a chance to be part of a third premiership outfit after switching from the Roosters during the pre-season.

Whenever things got tough, they would look to an inspirational quote for motivation. Often, it was Jackson’s words that got them through sessions.

“He’s the quote man,” Tetevano said pointing at Fisher-Harris. “He would chuck up different quotes when we were in the gym. If you’re hurting, nobody really cares. You just do the work.

“That’s how we looked at it. Things are hard but nobody cares if you’re hurting. That’s what kept us going.

“These are the things that got us to where we are. It was tough. We reap the rewards now.”

Fisher-Harris and Tetevano have become close in a short space of time.

“I roomed with him throughout the year with the Kiwis and I knew what he was like,” Fisher-Harris said. “When I saw him rock up at Panthers, I thought ‘this is good’.

“Naturally, we want to test ourselves anyway. It’s who we are.”

The Panthers bonds have been formed on and off the paddock. Many of the current squad came up through the lower grades together, culminating in an under-20s premiership in 2015.

“There was about six or seven,” halfback Nathan Cleary said. “That makes it even more special to be able to do it with a group you have grown up with. We have gelled so well. I am super grateful to be part of this group. I am riding the wave and absolutely loving it.

“I think everyone gets along so well. It has been a dream of mine to win a grand final together. To be able to win it with your mates is pretty crazy.”

Original article posted in the Sydney Morning Herald online, 21 October 2020. https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/lockdown-lessons-the-mantra-pushing-the-panthers-to-grand-final-glory-20201021-p5673w.html