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Jamayne Isaako is being tipped for a test recall after becoming the first player in 33 years since Rugby League Immortal Mal Meninga to lead the NRL for most points and most tries.
The Dolphins wing – who is eligible to play for the Kiwis and Samoa – celebrated a double last achieved by Meninga at the Canberra Raiders in 1990.
Meninga – now the Kangaroos coach – scored 15 tries and got 212 points in a 22-game New South Wales Rugby League premiership 33 years ago. Isaako dotted down 24 times and reaped 244 points in 24 appearances this year.
Yet, in many ways, Isaako’s feat is more outstanding. Canberra were the minor premiers and grand final champions in Meninga’s banner year, whereas the Dolphins finished 13th in their maiden season.
Isaako got as many tries in 2023 as he mustered in five years with the Brisbane Broncos.
“It’s a wonderful achievement for him,’’ Dolphins assistant coach Kristian Woolf said of the tries and points double after watching Isaako score a try and kick five goals in a 34-10 win over the Warriors in Brisbane last Saturday.
“For him to do that in a side that have not made the top-eight makes it even more special.
“He’s outstanding, and we’re very lucky to have him.’’
Dolphins and Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich wouldn’t be surprised to see a national coach dialling Isaako’s number for upcoming tests.
“He’s been one of our best players all year,” Bromwich said. “He can do it all, his backfield carries are really strong and he’s finished really well.
“He should be expecting a call, for sure, he’s been outstanding.”
Christchurch-born Isaako made his NRL debut for the Broncos in 2017 but left them in 2022 for an 11-game stint with the Titans before taking up his three-year deal with the Dolphins.
Woolf said Isaako had been “very professional on and off the field”.
“Whenever he gets the ball, he’s got the ability to do something and make something happen.
“He doesn’t miss too many times when he gets the opportunity for a try, he’s been great in that department, and he’s been great with his goalkicking.
“He certainly deserves all the accolades.”
Isaako made his Kiwis test debut in 2019. He won the last of his five caps in 2019, and also had a test for Samoa that year to honour his father, Taai, who was fighting brain cancer.
He got the chance to play in front of his dad in Christchurch for the Kiwis against Great Britain in November 2019.
Isaako was regularly returning home to Christchurch to be with his family before his father died in 2020.
He wears the name ‘Dad’ on his wrist strapping when he plays.
After a standout start for the Broncos – he was the NRL’s top points scorer and rookie of the year in 2018 – Isaako played just one game in 2022 before his temporary shift to the Titans.
Now he’s made every post a winner at the Redcliffe-based Dolphins under veteran master coach Wayne Bennett in the company of a clutch of Kiwis, including Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Kodi Nikorima, Jeremy Marshall-King and exciting rookie Valynce Te Whare.
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