Even as a junior playing for St John’s Dubbo, Isaah Yeo was a leader.
But that didn’t make it any less special when the 23-year-old got the call-up to captain the Penrith Panthers in last Friday’s clash against the New Zealand Warriors, just four years after making his first grade debut.
Back home in Mudgee, father Justin – himself a respected former Balmain Tiger and premiership-winning Dubbo CYMS coach – said it was no surprise his son was handed the reins in the absence of NSW Origin five-eighth James Maloney.
Instead, the surprise came in the news’ delivery.
“We saw it online!” Justin said.
“It was a little bit emotional when we found out … it was always in the back of our minds ever since he became part of the first grade side and he’s always been part of the little leadership group.
“We were ecstatic. Very proud.”
The family has been swamped by messages of congratulations from people across the Central West.
“There was a lot of contact made from friends and family which was a really nice thing and something he really respects. He loves his family to death,” Justin said.
“Everyone has been sending lovely messages … they’ve all either coached him or played with him or been part of the family.
“That’s one thing about being from a small community; they all feel a bit of ownership, like they’ve helped raise him.”
The whole family – parents Justin and Amy and siblings Ariah, Zali and Xavier – attend all of Isaah’s home games at Panthers Stadium, and Friday was no different.
They were treated to a man-of-the-match performance; Isaah recorded 165 run metres, 57 post-contact metres, 33 tackles, zero missed tackles, two offloads and five tackle breaks.
“He was pretty busted – I don’t think I’ve seen him so exhausted in my life!” Justin said.
“He does a very good job representing his club and his mates … he may not be the most brilliant, he may not come up with the big plays to win the game but he works hard everyday.”
Isaah took it all in his stride, telling Panthers TV after the game it was Justin who had “explained the extent” of his achievement.
“We did have a little chat during the week just about how he was a little Dubbo boy, and … has gone from being a St John’s junior to captaining an NRL team,” Justin said.
“He was very proud … it hasn’t settled in and he’ll sit back and reflect on it at the end of the year, but at the moment he’s got a job to do.
“It’s something they won’t be able to take away from him. When he retires one day, he’ll always be able to say he captained an NRL team.”