Isaako no overnight sensation
Jamayne Isaako's match-winning performance in just his fourth NRL match has not stunned those who know his history of dazzling feats on the rugby league field.
When the 21-year-old Brisbane Broncos winger calmly slotted four penalties and a field goal to lift the Broncos to a 9-7 golden point victory over the Wests Tigers, including a late penalty from an acute angle in regular time, his former Endeavour Sports High and Cronulla Sharks under-20s coach Dave Howlett was not surprised in the least.
He'd seen Isaako do all that, and more, before in high-pressure situations.
"Jamayne always played exactly the same way whether it was the first minute of the game or the last and whether we were winning by 100 or whether the scores were level," Howlett told NRL.com.
Those who have watched Isaako's three Telstra Premiership games this season will have gleaned he is unflappable, an accomplished goal kicker, will try a short kick-off when under pressure, and can sail high into the air to catch towering bombs.
What they won't know is that he also possesses dazzling speed, dancing feet, and has an extensive box of attacking tricks up his sleeve.
NRL.com has taken a look back at Isaako's past to shed light on what he has already done in his short professional career to shed more light on what can be expected in future.
Isaako was player of the match at centre for Endeavour Sports High in the 2014 GIO Cup national final against Patrician Brothers' College Blacktown, where he created a highlights reel that came to the attention of the Broncos.
Howlett described Isaako as "a free spirit" but with an unshakable belief in his own ability as a series of anecdotes and historical facts will reveal.
Exhibit 1: In 2017 Isaako landed 83 goals from 96 attempts for Souths-Logan in the Intrust Super Cup at a kick success percentage of 86.46%.
Compare that with the record of two of the greatest goal kickers of the modern era, Hazem El Masri and Daryl Halligan, who landed 891 goals at 81.97% and 855 goals at 79.31% respectively.
Isaako's goal kicking record last year included three outings where he landed seven from seven and a hot streak where he slotted 21 goals without a miss.
In the GIO Cup final in 2014 Isaako landed three goals from four and missed a conversion after scoring a try in the final minute when the game was won.
"The first three weren't easy goals and he landed them all, but when the pressure was on he never missed one and that was pretty telling in the end," Howlett said.
Broncos captain Darius Boyd had no hesitation in throwing Isaako the ball with minutes to go and Brisbane trailing by two against the Tigers.
"People look in from the outside and see Jamayne and he is probably an unknown, but I have the utmost confidence in him," Boyd told NRL.com.
"To be that calm with the weight of pressure on your shoulders, with goal kicking and a drop goal, and in in key moments of your fourth NRL game, is pretty special."
Exhibit 2: In the schoolboy final of 2014 Endeavour Sports High led 6-0 and defended their line for three sets in a row before Patrician Brothers dropped the ball. A scrum ensued.
"Jamayne chipped and chased off the scrum, got the ball back and passed to Curtis Scott who ran 70m and scored a try in the corner," Howlett enthused.
"There is not a coach in the game who would have had that in his game plan so… I fell off my chair when he kicked it."
Boyd watched Isaako star at fullback with his running game in his NRL debut against the Newcastle Knights last year and knows there is more of that on the horizon.
"He's only four games into his NRL career and the best is yet to come for sure," Boyd said.
Exhibit 3: In the same GIO Cup final, Isaako’s side led 18-12 in the second half with 10 minutes to go.
"That's when Jamayne did a short kick-off and tried to regather it himself," Howlett chuckled.
"It was like he was having a game in the backyard with his mates. He was just having a crack, and that's the way he played every game."
Isaako didn't get the ball back on that occasion but it revealed plenty about Isaako's mindset and what transpired four years later in just his third NRL game in front of a huge crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
With the North Queensland Cowboys in front 8-0 in round two, and the Broncos under the pump, Isaako took Anthony Milford’s advice and did a short drop-kick from in front of the posts. The Broncos got the ball back and never looked back in that game.
Exhibit 4: This week in the NRL.com podcast, Broncos legend Steve Renouf waxed lyrical about Isaako’s ability to jump up above the pack and take high balls in the same vein as Israel Folau.
That ability had its genesis in high jump duels with current NRL-contracted players John Olive and Curtis Scott.
"The three of them would do the high jump contest at the school athletics carnival and there was no other event we could put on at the same time because the whole school was watching those three just go at it," Howlett said.