NSW coach Brad Fittler has confirmed in-form Penrith forward Isaah Yeo is on his Origin radar following a breakout season with the ladder leading Panthers.
Yeo is in career-best touch this year after shifting to starting lock for the high-flying mountain men.
The Dubbo junior has played all 12 games for Penrith while he has averaged 145 running metres and scored two tries.
Fittler has been hugely impressed with Yeo’s development this season to become arguably the NRL’s most improved player.
“He (Isaah) is playing great,” Fittler said.
“Anytime you’re in a winning team, your chances to represent get better.”
Penrith prop Zane Tetevano has long been a fan of Yeo’s, even when he was at the Sydney Roosters.
Tetevano credits the forward’s rise to his ability to secure the lock position after being one of the Panthers’ most versatile players in past seasons.
“I think it has been just really owning that middle,” Tetevano said.
“He has played a bit of back row and centre before, so he has been like that Mr Fix-it, jumping in and out of positions.
“But that has changed now he is in that lock position. Watching from afar I’ve seen his capabilities, but I think his work ethic to learn and improve has helped him.”
Panthers trainer Hayden Knowles revealed 10-kilometre road runs have helped Yeo become the club’s ironman following a season when he couldn’t lift weights due to a dodgy shoulder.
He was outstanding for the Panthers in their draw against Newcastle back in round 3, running for 191 metres and making 60 tackles while playing 90 minutes in the middle.
The mammoth effort has placed him in the record books as the only Penrith player to record 150 plus metres and 50 plus tackles in a game since 1998.
Panthers Isaah Yeo is on the path to State of Origin. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
He also surpassed previous personal bests with 172 run metres versus Newcastle in 2014 and 43 tackles against Brisbane in 2018.
Yeo’s impressive form is a significant contrast to last season when he bravely defied a shoulder injury that required surgery.
He struggled to lift weights for the entire 2019 campaign, which significantly hampered his form.
Yeo booked in for end of season surgery, but it didn’t stop him from hitting the road to rebuild his monster motor.
“Every Saturday during the break Isaah did a 10-kilometre run,” Knowles said.
“He called it his game day.
“In a game, even playing in the middle, the most he would normally run for would be around eight kilometres.
“But he was doing a big run every weekend off his own bat.
“I didn’t ask him to do it. I was aware of it, so I just adjusted some of his other days in terms of workload.
Knowles, who is a trainer with the NSW Blues, believes Yeo’s workmanlike style is perfectly suited to Origin football.
Since being signed to Penrith in 2014 via respected recruiter Jim Jones, the St Johns Dubbo junior has only played one representative game for Country in ’16.
Knowles said this could change for Yeo in 2020 if he maintains his standout form.
“Who knows, there are a few more rounds until Origin gets picked,” he said.
“He was around the rep scene with country a few years ago, so he has the ability.”
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