BABY Bronco Jharal Yow Yeh can’t believe the luck he’s been dealt in pursuing his apprenticeship at Brisbane – the 19-year-old winger is living any boy’s dream, training with the fulltime NRL squad at the most popular and successful Queensland club in rugby league.
But his training has a wonderful twist – at his disposal are two of the best outside backs in the world, Justin Hodges and Israel Folau.
Their impact has not been lost on the Brisbane Norths junior. A star of the Toyota Cup last season, Yow Yeh has developed over the 2009 off-season, bulking up and by his own reckoning, gaining much-needed maturity. Even though Folau is the same age as Yow Yeh, the former’s achievements in the game are already legendary, and the latter can’t get enough of the Australia representative.
“Playing outside of Izzy, even if it’s just at training, is great!” Yow Yeh enthuses.
“We’re in the same age division but he is someone I can look up to. Justin Hodges is also someone who has been helping me out. He’s always willing to give me advice.”
Yow Yeh scored 27 tries in 26 games in the Toyota Cup last year, helping propel the Broncos to the grand final, where they were pipped by the Canberra Raiders.
This year the club is keen to give him more experience playing against men, and will be splitting his time between playing at the Broncos and for Brisbane Norths in the Queensland Cup.
Yow Yeh would not trade his Toyota Cup experience for anything, but spending time with the NRL squad this year is already enabling a better player.
“My goal was to put on some weight and I’ve gone from 83 to 88 kilograms now, plus I’m a bit faster,” says the speedster.
“I was scared coming into training with first grade but the experience has made me more mature. Defence was the big thing I had to work on but my attack is improving too. It’s different to the under-20s; everything is more technical but I’m getting into it.”
Expect Yow Yeh to grab his chance in the NRL around State of Origin when the Broncos traditionally look to their rookies.
Former Balmain and Redcliffe player Kevin Yow Yeh was your uncle – how have you handled carrying a famous rugby league name?
It’s been weird getting asked about him all the time because I don’t really know him or much about him. When someone hears my name they recognise it but all I really know is he was a good footy player.
You beat Olympic silver medallist Sally McLellan over 40 metres during the pre-season, did you ever consider a career in athletics?
I used to represent my school at running but there were always kids who were faster than me. I liked running – but I loved playing rugby league, so I just wanted to take that road. I’ve been working on my speed with the coaching staff this year and I have gotten faster.
What is your career highlight?
That would probably be the grand final last year, even though we lost. The boys came together separately, we barely knew each other, but we worked hard and pulled through to make it to the grand final. I couldn’t explain the atmosphere and the noise, even for a curtain raiser! When I scored a try it was amazing.
Are you planning to make an impact in the NRL this season?
I would definitely love to play first grade this year – it’s one of my goals but if I don’t make it this year then there is always another year. I would love to play a game or two, and then hopefully get a few more, that would be awesome.