Why Isaako chose Brisbane over the Roosters
Jamayne Isaako had glamour club the Sydney Roosters chasing his signature before the 22-year-old goal-kicking sensation elected to re-sign with the Brisbane Broncos for four years to further his ambition of playing fullback long-term.
Isaako, who met with Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson in Brisbane recently, has played 17 of his 19 Telstra Premiership games on the wing but said he ultimately believed the Broncos offered the best opportunity to pursue his long-term positional goal.
"Trent was up in Brisbane to see friends so I linked up with my manager (Jim Banaghan) and had the meeting with him," Isaako told NRL.com.
"We did it all pretty sensibly and didn't go behind anyone's backs and Trent put everything on the table.
"I had to consider all my options, and where the best options were for me to play my best footy in the future.
"Trent wanted to sign me up as a winger but I want to pursue my career as a fullback and I thought Brisbane provided me with the best opportunity to do that, especially with Darbs (Darius Boyd) coming towards the end of his career. I want to play fullback long-term."
With Blake Ferguson moving on to the Parramatta Eels at season's end it is clear what Robinson had in mind, but Isaako knew that star NSW fullback James Tedesco had the custodian's position tied down at the Roosters. The Roosters have since signed England winger Ryan Hall.
Darius Boyd is signed until the end of 2021 but both the Brisbane captain and coach Wayne Bennett have said publicly that Isaako's best position is in the fullback's role.
Bennett gave an indication of what may unfold in future seasons when he started Isaako at fullback in the 50-18 win over the Panthers last Friday night.
Boyd moved to left centre, a position he played as a junior and where he has performed with distinction at representative level.
While that switch may not be a long-term move, and Isaako may have to wait to play fullback on a regular basis in future seasons, it provided an insight into the options Bennett is considering.
Isaako also had another reason for staying in Brisbane that is close to his heart.
"It was absolutely a tough decision because I had to consider my family and my partner, and she is 26 weeks pregnant at the moment," Isaako said.
"I have a little fella on the way and I had to consider him in my decision, and I thought staying in Brisbane was best for me and my family.
"I want my son to grow up somewhere without having to move. As well as that I wanted to give back to Brisbane for looking after me ever since I've come here and stabilise my future with a long-term contract."
Isaako made his NRL debut last year in round 19 against Newcastle where he impressed in the starting fullback's role.
After completing a stellar season with Souths-Logan in in the Intrust Super Cup he was given a starting position in round one against the Dragons in 2019 and has not looked back.
In 18 Telstra Premiership games he has scored 161 points from 64 goals, eights tries and a field goal. Several of his performances have been match-winning displays with his cool-as-a-cucumber goal kicking against Wests Tigers and scintillating last-gasp try against the Roosters two that spring to mind.
His performances caught the eye of New Zealand selectors who gave Isaako a Test debut against England in this year's Denver Test.
After starring as a schoolboy for Endeavour Sports High, the New Zealand-born Isaako played under 20s for the Cronulla Sharks and was feeling homesick towards the end of 2015.
It was then he made a decision that has ultimately changed his life.
"Towards the end of 2015 I was back in New Zealand after leaving the Sharks and my manager organised a meeting with Wayne and I flew over here for that," Isaako said.
"He'd seen a bit of vision of me and we spoke, and it all kicked off from there. He made it clear how much he wanted me to come to the club, but there were no promises.
"Wayne was clear that I had to come here and play 20s and then have a good crack at Q Cup before getting a chance at NRL."
Isaako handled the role of fullback against the Panthers with aplomb but suffered a knock to his leg in the second half. He said he hoped to be right to play his old club the Cronulla Sharks on Thursday night.
"I felt pretty comfortable there at fullback," he said.
"I played there last in the pre-season against PNG and to get a good run there was pretty pleasing. I picked up a couple of little injuries but nothing that should keep me out of the Sharks game."