Goalkicking winger/fullback Jamayne Isaako’s meteoric rise included a New Zealand Test call-up after just 15 NRL appearances.
Born in Christchurch and a junior of the Aranui Eagles club in Canterbury, Isaako was snapped up by Cronulla as 17-year-old and played 27 games for the Sharks’ under-20s side in 2014-15. He was the Junior Kiwis’ fullback in their loss to the Junior Kangaroos in the latter season.
Isaako linked with Brisbane in 2016, scoring 132 points in just 13 NYC games and again representing the Junior Kiwis against their Australian counterparts – this time at five-eighth.
While piling on the points for Broncos feeder club Souths Logan Magpies in the 2017 InTrust Super Cup, the 21-year-old made his NRL debut at fullback in a win over Newcastle, his only top-grade outing of the season.
But Isaako began the 2018 season on the right wing for Brisbane and carved out a dazzling Dally M Rookie of the Year campaign. He scored 11 tries and kicked 97 goals at 82.91 percent to rack up 239 points – the second-highest tally ever for the Broncos and the most points in a season by a rookie in premiership history.
Despite his lack of top-level experience, Isaako proved himself as a match-winner with the boot and in general play. The cool-headed youngster kicked a golden point penalty goal to sink Wests Tigers in just his fourth first-grade game, while he scored an astonishing solo match-winner against Sydney Roosters that was later voted the NRL’s Try of the Year.
A few weeks later he was in Denver donning the black-and-white jersey at Test level, kicking three goals in the Kiwis’ 36-18 loss to England. Isaako was selected in New Zealand’s end-of-year squad and made his second international appearance in the third-Test thrashing of England at Elland Road after coming into the side for injured winger Jordan Rapana.
Isaako endured an early-2019 form slump with the Broncos but he turned out at fullback in Samoa’s win over Papua New Guinea midyear, booting four goals. That representative outing triggered a turnaround for Isaako, who finished the NRL season in superb touch to earn a place in the Kiwis’ World Cup Nines and Test squads.
He was one of the inaugural World Cup Nines’ standout performers, heading the tryscoring (7) and pointscoring (52) lists and winning a place in the Team of the Tournament as the Kiwis finished runners-up.
The 23-year-old featured on the wing in New Zealand’s loss to Australia in Wollongong, before scoring the first try and kicking two goals in the series-opening win against Great Britain at Eden Park. He then slotted five goals and a field goal as the Kiwis wrapped up a cleansweep in front of Isaako’s family and friends in Christchurch.
Isaako played only 10 games for the struggling Broncos in a difficult 2020 season that included the loss of his father, Taai, to cancer. He became a first-grade regular again in 2021, however, scoring six tries and 124 in 18 games at wing and fullback to become just the sixth player to pass the 500-point milestone for the Broncos. Still on the Kiwis’ radar, Isaako was named in the wider squad for the World Cup at the end of 2021.