Why superboot Isaako is happy to be kept in the dark
Brisbane Broncos goalkicker Jamayne Isaako is following in the footsteps of Johnathan Thurston with his radar boot fine-tuned by training sessions in the dark.
Isaako has landed 81 goals this year at a phenomenal success rate of 84.4% and is often seen by Souths-Logan Magpies CEO Jim McClelland at the club’s home ground in Brisbane’s West End practising his goal kicking after the sun has gone down.
When Thurston was 12 and a junior at Souths-Sunnybank in Brisbane he would relentlessly practise field goals and sideline conversions after dark when others had gone home.
The only light he had to work with was the dim glow from the clubhouse where his father would wait patiently for his son to complete his training.
After winning the 2015 grand final Thurston told Rugby League Week magazine that those night time sessions were "a big part of my development as a rugby league player".
Isaako played with Souths in the Intrust Super Cup where he was a standout goal kicker before getting his NRL call-up, and McClelland explained to NRL.com how this year's night sessions came about.
"I said to Jamayne ‘why don’t we leave a heap of balls in the medical room for you, I’ll give you the code to the gate and you can come in and kick as often as you like’," McClelland said.
"When it’s night and there is a no light at all I’ll say to him 'why don’t we turn the lights on' but he goes 'No, no. I kick better in the dark'.
"They are white balls so I guess he can see where they are going. I know the story about JT, where’s his old man would stay at the bar in the clubhouse out at Sunnybank because JT was kicking them in the dark.
"Jamayne has got the same attitude and application to his kicking."
McClelland has another story that highlights the point.
"He used to bring his girlfriend down to the ground and she’d be catching the balls behind the goal posts," McClelland grinned.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett said recently that he sees Isaako at Broncos HQ practising his goal kicking on his days off. Isaako told NRL.com at the time that he has a routine where he kicks goals 30 times in those extra sessions, and from angles that he has missed in recent games.
He said the kicking after dark is more about fine tuning his ball striking and muscle memory.
"Kicking in the dark is all about practising striking the ball and getting the best out of any situation," Isaako told NRL.com.
“You are not likely to have to kick in the dark in an NRL game but I remember the lights went out in Cairns when the Cowboys played the Tigers, so you never know.
"I never knew that JT used to do that but, for me personally, to be better you need to continually practise and I need to do that if I want to solidify my position in a team with so many good goalkickers.
"I have always admired JT because not many people can kick the way he does. It is pretty inspirational for me."
McClelland said Isaako's application was not the only character trait he shared with Thurston. The Kiwi international is also "king of the kids" like the Cowboys co-captain.
"The other similarities there are with the kids where Jamayne goes out of his way to interact with them and sign autographs," McClelland said.
"Jamayne comes to all our home games when he can and about a month ago our coach JB [Jon Buchanan] got someone to take a video of him after the match playing touch with about 14 kids.
"JT has always had time for everybody and he hasn’t lost that as he's gone through his career. We see it when he is the first one to walk over and pick up the [kicking] tee for the ball boys.
"I see the same characteristics with Jamayne right across his game where he wants to be a quality player and person."
Isaako lives near Souths' home ground and said he found it easy to make time to stay connected with the club.
"I like to give back to Souths for what they have done for me," he said.
That mentality is certainly reciprocated.
"Jamayne came to us a couple of years ago and has become part of the furniture and part of our family," McClelland said.
"He is a quality kid and feels at home and loved here. Jamayne was good for us when he was here and we hope we never get him back, but only for the reason that we want him playing at the highest level."