The slow burn of 139 agonising days since the Penrith Panthers went down to the Melbourne Storm in last year’s NRL Grand Final has been a driving factor in a fast start to season 2021 according to new co-captain Isaah Yeo.
The 26-year-old junior from Dubbo who tonight, led the team onto a roaring Panthers Stadium for the first time, looked like he hadn’t even had an off season. With a clean slate, the entire squad playing and an extra skip in the step to atone for last year’s defeat, the Panthers were determined to come out firing.
The Panthers struck early with a Kurt Capewell try in the sixth minute but then found themselves grinding out a battle with the North Queensland Cowboys into the second half. They were able to grab two points through a penalty goal but had a couple of certain tries stopped, while blundering some on their own, and didn’t see points again until the 52nd minute through Dylan Edwards.
From that moment – they never looked back.
It was the Nathan Cleary show in many ways, with his tactical and at times magical kicking and fearless running game however, it was Isaah Yeo in the middle of the field quietly making a difference. Most eyes and focus are often on his co-captain, who, by many, has been crowned the best halfback in the game and that’s how Yeo likes it.
He quietly goes about his business and gets the job done.In the 60th minute, Cleary put a peach of a kick into the air with Liam Martin leaping over his defenders to grab a fantastic try assist. An assist for none other than – always reliable, always there – Isaah Yeo. 70 per cent of Penrith Panthers fans who were asked to describe Yeo in three words chose reliable and/or leader in their selections.
That sums him up perfectly.
He will never score as many tries as Stephen Crichton, excite the crowd like Nathan Cleary or Jarome Luai or tickle ribs like James Fisher-Harris and Viliame Kikau and yet, he’s got the C next to his name.
In his first game as captain, Yeo put together a strong 70 minute performance. He led with 20 runs for 169 metres, 94 per cent tackle success, 2 tackle breaks and 1 sneaky try to get him off the nudie run list.
He leads by example every single week with his consistency and reliability. He is an inspiration, overcoming career defining injuries.
He’s the player on the field that you don’t need to worry about because you know he’ll be there. He’ll complete the tackle, he knows when to pass or when to hold on, he’ll be the one calling for the ball when he sees his men tiring.He’s the one you would call at 3am and know he would answer.
He’s had the attributes of a captain all along and now he gets to wear that title proudly.In the press conference, Ivan Cleary described Yeo and Cleary as natural captains.
“We came back to pre-season and those guys, both of them, just took over organically.
“It was never going to hurt their performances.”
Reliable. Humble. Workhorse. Selfless. Hardworking. Honest. Loyal. Underrated. Consistent. Committed. Determined. Leader.
How do you describe Isaah Yeo in just three words? Simple. You can’t.