As the Panthers prepare to take on arch rivals the Melbourne Storm, Craig Bellamy will be hoping to blunt the mountain men’s ever reliable lock — Isaah Yeo.
The 27-year-old country product has been instrumental in the Panthers strong early-season form, recording only one loss in nine games.
In the opening four rounds, Yeo collected 12 Dally M points, the most possible for any individual.
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Yeo is so good that he is almost the first name on Brad Fittler’s Blues teamsheet, keeping out the likes of Cameron Murray and Jake Trbojevic in the No.13 jersey.
Playmaking star Nathan Cleary explained that having Yeo in the side is like having a third playmaker.
“It’s kind of like having another halfback out there,” Cleary said to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We bounce ideas off each other and it’s pretty cool. Talking to him, we both see the game the exact same way. For someone to play in the middle as long as he does, making all those tackles and runs, and to still have his head on seeing the game the way we want to … is pretty incredible and quite unique. He’s a freak.”
Fittler believes Yeo’s success comes down to his own mindset in approaching the game.
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“The main thing he’s just really simplified his job, it looks complicated but it’s simple in his own head,” Fittler said.
Ball-playing locks are becoming a hallmark of the NRL’s elite clubs, with many teams looking to find their own Isaah Yeo.
Roosters No.13 Victor Radley named Yeo as the “benchmark” for locks across the competition.
“He is the benchmark. Penrith are the benchmark. He’s got a really good balance at the moment where you don’t know if he’s going to pass, or he’s going to run. That’s really hard to defend,” Radley said to the SMH.
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In Craig Bellamy’s sides preparation, Yeo would have been a focal point in analysis of the reigning premiers.
The Storm’s own No.13, Josh King, is a pure metre-eater, charging the ball into the line consistently.
Yeo’s average run metres per game sits at 100, while King’s figure is only marginally better at 102, but the Panthers lock players 12 more minutes on average.
King and Yeo are set to go toe-to-toe on Saturday night in one of the most interesting battles of the year.
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