LNR 2021; Home State, NSW Blues, Penrith Panthers, Isaah Yeo
Isaah Yeo need only take a look at his left shoulder to see who he will represent when he wears the No.13 jersey for NSW in the State of Origin Series opener on Wednesday night in Townsville. .
Like his father Justin and other male family members, Yeo has a tattoo with his uncle Gerard’s name and the date of the Bali bombing on October 12, 2002 in honor of the 20-year-old. years old, who was one of six Coogee Dolphin Players killed in the terrorist attack.
Yet it’s also a reminder to Penrith’s co-captain of the breadth of the Yeo family’s rugby league roots and the support they’ve received in Dubbo, where Isaah is seen as the “perfect role model. “for junior aspirants because of the sacrifices he made to make his NRL dream come true.
“I was only in second year at the time, but it was obviously difficult for our family and I’m sure if you asked them now it would still be as difficult as the day it happened.” , Yeo said.
“You wouldn’t want something like that on your worst enemy.
“It’s obviously not a good thing to happen to anyone, but the good thing about coming from a country town and you’re a big family is that everyone really comes together. around you.
“I remember a lot of good things about the people who came to make sure the whole family was supported.”
A junior Dubbo CYMS, Yeo is one of three non-Town or Coast NSW squad players, along with Penrith teammate Liam Martin (Temora Dragons) and Canberra star Jack Wighton (Orange CYMS ).
Justin Yeo is a bush football legend after returning from stints with North Sydney in 1998 and Balmain in 1999 to help Dubbo become Prime Minister in 2001, 2002 and 2003 with his cousin Bernard Wilson, who also played for the Bears and the Tigers.
Current Dubbo CYMS coach Shawn Townsend, who is married to Yeo’s mother’s sister Amy, played in the lower classes for Norths and was at the Coogee Dolphins in 2002, along with Gerard and another uncle from Isaah. , Paul.
“All of the Yeo boys have the Gerard tattoo,” Wilson said. “I saw Isaah the other day without his shirt and his tattoo is much lighter than mine because he didn’t have it until he was 18.
“He was only young at the time and he probably struggled to fully understand what was going on, but he’s a pretty mature kid.
“Justin coached him for a lot of his junior years and then I helped him coach him in the Under-18s. We coached CYMS in first year together. With this family association, we did it all together. and we are definitely a football family. “
“Footy is all we know somehow”
Isaah jokes that his father’s career in the NRL was cut short after 11 games due to the fact that he was born when Justin was just 18 and the young family moved back to Dubbo.
However, this decision had an influence on Yeo’s development as he grew up around the game.
“Footy is all we’ve kind of known,” Yeo said. “Dad came home in his prime and had a very successful career in the country.
“He was about 22 or 23 years old and had just finished four or five NRL preseason so he was as fit as a violin. He was a really good cross. He coached captain Dubbo CYMS and he trained me as I progressed the grades.
“Growing up, Monday through Friday, I went to their workouts and was a ball boy on the weekends.”
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Yeo was signed by Penrith’s recruiting guru Jim Jones after a 2011 try at Nyngan and played in the club’s Under-20 team, which won Premier two seasons later, which included Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Bryce Cartwright and Waqa Blake. .
The 26-year-old striker left the exchange in the New York Grand Final in 2013, but was the first member of the squad to make his NRL debut for Penrith, to be named captain and to reach the milestone of 150 matches.
Ivan Cleary gave Yeo his NRL debut in the 2014 season opener at center and he played most of his career at second before making the transition to lockdown last year.
It was a move that brought out the best in Yeo, who developed his ball skills playing five eighths in the juniors for St Johns Dubbo and defeated Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray and Dale Finucane for the NSW lockdown role.
“I’m really excited to be able to put on this No.13 jersey,” said Yeo. “There’s a lot of depth in the lockdown position so that’s something I’m very proud of.
“It’s good to be able to lock a seat for the start of the game and know what my role is, but if I have to move during the game, I understand that.
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“I played five eighths in the juniors which has probably improved my ball skills now, and being able to play a few positions has probably helped me make the team.”
Blues assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon has been impressed with Yeo in the NSW Origin camp and believes he is naturally fit to lock down.
Fitzgibbon predicted that he would only get better as he played more games in the position.
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“It’s been a pretty remarkable climb, but it seems to me he’s found a home in the middle,” said the former Kangaroos back rower.
“I just think he has the balance between being able to play as a tough midfielder and rolling up his sleeves, but he also has the ability to pass the ball in good circumstances.
“He doesn’t overplay his hand but he always uses the ball well, he’s got a big motor and defensively he’s rock solid. He’s a good, humble boy, he works hard, he trains hard and he doesn’t. ain’t no bullshit with him. “
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A shining example
At St Johns in Dubbo, where Wilson remains heavily involved, Yeo is presented as a shining example for talented juniors if they are willing to make the sacrifices like he has.
To play for the Panthers while completing his HSC in college, Yeo took a bus and train from Dubbo each Thursday and returned on Sunday.
He missed a friend’s 18th birthday parties and other events but the sacrifices paid off when he was selected to the NSW Origin squad last year, was named Penrith co-captain this season with half-back Nathan Cleary and he also signed a new three-year contract.
“Isaah is our perfect role model,” Wilson said. “When he got to 16 or 17, Isaah just decided to make some sacrifices and give in because he wanted to give himself every chance to make his dream come true.
“When his buddies went to parties and stayed late or found problems, he never had drinks or did those things because he was focused on playing in the NRL.
“We are fortunate to have young Matt Burton coming in now. He has a lot more natural abilities than Isaah, but Isaah’s story is good because he made all the sacrifices. sell to a child, no need to dress it.
“When we sit down with our kids under 16, we tell them ‘this is what you can achieve if you want to put certain things on hold.’ You’re going to have to make sacrifices, you’re going to have to work hard – c ‘is what Isaah Yeo did, and that is why he is now reaching what he is. “