Yeo more worried about Mansour than playing wing
Penrith back-rower Isaah Yeo can afford a chuckle about his senior representative debut coming on the unfamiliar wing position but his eyes widen slightly at the prospect of marking up on tackle-busting clubmate Josh Mansour.
Yeo has been a beacon of consistency for the luckless Panthers so far in 2016 and has been playing big minutes in Penrith's stacked back row but has been named on the wing for Country Origin this weekend.
The 21-year-old Dubbo junior has played a chunk of his 40 NRL games in the centres but has mostly filled the back-row rotation and has never featured on the wing. His task won't be made any easier if he's required to mark up on hard-to-handle club teammate Mansour but Yeo said he was just looking forward to the experience.
"It's a bit of a surprise but I'm just happy to be in the team and wherever Craig (Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon) wants me to play I'm more than happy to do that. It's obviously something a little bit different but I'm looking forward to the challenge," Yeo told NRL.com.
He agreed his versatility had probably assisted him in earning a spot in the side and hoped playing one spot further out on the wing wouldn't be too much of a switch up from the centres, where he feels comfortable.
"I think that's probably helped me get in the side, that versatility, and if that means I'm playing on the wing I'm more than happy to do that. I'm looking forward to it, I'm sure it's not too much different to playing in the centres!"
Yeo is the only Panther in the Country line-up; Penrith juniors tending to make up a fair chunk of City Origin squads and this year is no different with five current Panthers – Josh Mansour, Tyrone Peachey, Bryce Cartwright, Leilani Latu and Reagan Campbell-Gillard – opposing Yeo in the City side.
Of those, it is Mansour that will be keeping Yeo most on his toes.
"I might be a chance of being on Josh Mansour so that will be a good laugh and he'll be a good challenge, he'll be right up there for NSW contention I'm sure," Yeo said.
"The banter's already started now. It's going to be a funny week leading in, we've played together the last three or four years so to be on the other side of them will be interesting.
"He does take a lot of carries in the middle so I might avoid him a little bit on the edge! It will be different to defending at back row."
Yeo also revealed he needed a mercy dash from former club skipper and current Penrith Welfare Coordinator Kevin Kingston to get to the Country team bus from Sydney's west on Tuesday after finding out he was in the team.
"I found out dinner time [Monday] night," Yeo said.
"I got a call from our football manager Jason Wrigley and I said if I'm not in the team I'm going back to Mudgee or Dubbo for the weekend and he said 'no, you're in the squad' and it's gone from there.
"I was actually trying to figure out how to get here [to Moore Park to join the team on Tuesday], I ended up getting Kevvie Kingston to drop me off at lunch time. It's all happened pretty quickly so I'm just looking forward to getting into camp."
Yeo said his selection was a nice reward after trying to work on his consistency in recent times.
"Last year was probably a little bit up and down and this year I've just been trying to fix that and ensure I'm preparing better each game and go from there. We've got so much depth in our squad out in Penrith so you have to because we've got some great back-rowers.
"Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Cartwright are obviously playing in the City team so it just goes to show how strong our depth is."
The proud country boy was also thrilled to be taking part in the annual clash in what could potentially be one of its final fixtures.
"It's one of my first memories, the City-Country game in Dubbo, being able to go watch that with my father. It's something I'm very proud of and I'm sure all these boys are too," he said.
"When you hear things like they're trying to scrap it in the coming years it's very disappointing to hear and all we can do as players is try and put on a good spectacle for the crowd and show that it's something all the players look forward to."