After half a dozen games in the NRL Telstra Premiership last year and the experience of watching his teammates lift the trophy, Izack Tago walks into a Panthers side with confidence.
The 19-year-old young gun, who many predict will fill the void on the left edge by Matt Burton’s departure, isn’t getting too carried away by the expectation being placed on him this year.
“It’s nice I guess to be talked about but I’m only just starting out in the NRL and have a lot to learn,” Tago told NRL.com.
“I’ve tried not to think about the opportunities but more so looking ahead to the year as a whole.
“I’ve had a good pre-season, it was short and sharp but I’ve learned a lot from it. I thought it was really cool to be around the boys in Queensland last year and see how they prepare daily.
“You probably wouldn’t be able to do that usually if you weren’t away with them for as long as we were.
“Their level of professionalism and diligence, I definitely noticed it. They did everything right and didn’t cut corners on anything, that goes for the coaching staff as well.”
What a first try to remember for Izack Tago!
Tago will have no better chance for an opportunity to cement a spot on the left edge with Penrith trio Jarome Luai, Viliame Kikau and Brian To’o alongside him.
He will mark opposite number Brad Parker and Sea Eagles winger Jason Saab on Thursday night after Ivan Cleary confirmed following a trial against the Sharks that Tago already had his round one spot.
“He (Cleary) hasn’t really put much pressure on me but is guiding my game and helping me improve in areas I need to,” Tago said.
“You’ve got to do the work and it all starts at training with the combinations alongside the boys.”
Another product of Penrith’s junior system, Tago lives with his two brothers and parents in Cambridge Park and is signed to the club until at least the end of the 2023 season.
He hopes to be able to extend his contract with the club to a longer-term deal.
“I’ve played all my junior footy here and it’s been good in that sense to transition through and to know a lot of the boys have done that here too and won a comp,” Tago said.
“I started at Brothers but went to St Marys and then into the Panthers Harold Matts system from there. It’s been a straight-forward process for me.”