Born: 12 December, 1988 – Tokoroa
Test record: 1 Test (2014) – 0 points
Clever half Isaac John’s rise at the Warriors was thwarted by injuries and the emergence of a budding superstar, but he returned to NRL prominence with Penrith in 2013 – most notably at the expense of his former club – after a stint in the European Super League and played one Test for New Zealand.
The Waikato-born, Turangawaewae junior represented New Zealand Under-16s in 2004 and Junior Kiwis in ’06 to pique the interest of the Warriors. John played for the Auckland Lions in the NSWRL Premier League and Waicoa Bay Stallions in the Bartercard Cup while contracted to the Warriors in 2007, before starring for the club’s under-20s side in the inaugural NYC competition in 2008. He was elevated to the full-time first grade squad the following season, turning out for Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup for most of the year.
The 20-year-old was blooded late in the Warriors’ troubled 2009 NRL season, lining up at five-eighth alongside Stacey Jones for three matches – notching a win, a loss and a draw – and surfacing as a potential long-term replacement for the retiring club legend. But Australian recruits James Maloney and Brett Seymour were installed as the Warriors’ scrumbase pairing at the beginning of 2010, and John was forced to bide his time for another crack at first grade. An injury to Seymour gave John an opportunity at halfback at the halfway mark of the season, combining superbly with Maloney in five straight matches to help lift the Warriors into the top eight. But a season-ending knee injury suffered against Penrith – a match that marked four consecutive wins – abruptly halted John’s progress.
John made just one first grade appearance in 2011 after recovering from his knee reconstruction – in a 20-12 loss to Wests Tigers in the absence of Maloney. Seymour again broke down, but Shaun Johnson overtook John in the halves pecking order and spearheaded the Warriors’ charge to the NRL grand final. John ran onto ANZ Stadium in Sydney that day – as part of the Vulcans side that suffered a heartbreaking last-minute defeat to Canterbury in the NSW Cup decider; he subsequently joined Super League outfit Wakefield Trinity.
Originally signed to a three-year deal, John played 13 games in 2012 but was released early the following season, allowing him to return to the NRL with Penrith under his former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. John made his club debut in a stunning Round 9 upset of Melbourne, before accelerating his profile even further by bagging a sensational hat-trick in the Panthers’ 62-6 drubbing of the Warriors – a record defeat for the Auckland-based club.
The composed John held down the Penrith No.6 jumper for the remainder of the season and represented Cook Islands at the 2013 World Cup, but the Panthers’ signing of former NSW Origin halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace for 2014 again stunted his NRL ambitions.
Nevertheless, the 25-year-old was chosen in a dramatically overhauled Kiwis line-up for the 2014 Anzac Test. Named at five-eighth, John came off the bench in an under-strength side’s gallant 30-18 defeat to the world champion Kangaroos and played 44 minutes in the halves alongside Johnson.
John made 10 NRL appearances across the 2014-15 seasons before joining Manly, but he was unable to force his way into first grade on the northern beaches. He hung up the boots following a season with NSW Cup side Mounties in 2017, instead focusing on business interests.