Who would have thought Isaah Yeo would have made his National Rugby League debut before his Under 20’s Premiership teammates Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, George Jennings or the gifted Bryce Cartwright?
Yet on Saturday March 8 he made his debut with new Panthers recruit Jamal Idris not quite ready after an injury during the off-season. For a guy on debut he didn’t look out of place as Penrith went on to get the better of Newcastle 30-8 at SportingBet Stadium.
Just recently during a membership evening on the Gold Coast for Panthers ticketed members, Yeo was in attendance and hung out with his good mate Cartwright. Yeo was lanky and quite tall but appeared shy in comparison to other seasoned campaigners in the NRL squad.
On game day there was no shyness from the nineteen year old. It was a match where Dave Taylor tried to rip Penrith apart out wide where Yeo, Josh Mansour and Jamie Soward were marking up in defense. At the fifty minute mark with the Panthers up 14-6 we got to know a little more about Isaah. Albert Kelly’s awful pass to Dave Taylor hit the big forward in the head. Yeo was quick to react in pouncing on the ball, and showed strength in powering through a last ditched tackle from David Mead to score.
This performance gave Panther fans the impression the guy holds no fear and shows maturity beyond his years to take the opportunity when it presents itself whether its on the field contesting a loose ball, or off field by getting a call-up to the main squad for Jamal Idris.
In six NRL appearances Yeo has scored twice (Parramatta and Gold Coast), averaged around fifty metres a game, made one-hundred and eleven tackles in only missing eight, with two errors. Most importantly on every occasion Penrith have won the match. His game will improve further as he gets more confident to take up the ball when the forward pack need a break.
Recently a story appeared on NRL.com about Yeo’s background. It was a touching story about the Yeo clan. His father Justin appeared eleven times for North Sydney and Balmain in 1998 and 1999. The tragedy being seven year old Isaah seeing his father cry for the first time at the funeral for Justin’s brother Gerard, who lost his life in the Bali Bombings in 2002.
Isaah Yeo doesn’t have the offload of Bryce Cartwright and doesn’t appear to be as quick as George Jennings of DWZ. But based on his first half dozen top grade appearances, Yeo gets the job done. I guess this is why Penrith decided to hand him an extension on his contract during the last off-season. The coaching staff saw potential in the kid and he’s repaying the club with some solid rookie performances.
Dubbo, you should be proud of your local product. Penrith’s unlikely ‘find’ of the season.