Penrith centre Izack Tago is expected to make his long-awaited return from a pectoral injury ahead of this Sunday night’s clash against embattled St George-Illawarra at BlueBet Stadium.
The 21-year-old Samoan international has missed the last four games of footy after injuring his pectoral muscle during the dying stages of Penrith’s heartbreaking loss to South Sydney in Round 8.
Tago was named on an extended bench for this weekend’s match against the Dragons but confirmed to the Weekender today that he was likely to make his comeback.
“I’m feeling pretty good at the moment, back to full training for the past few days. I’m feeling more and more confident with every session. I just need to see how the boys go tonight [in Origin] and see what the coach says after that,” Tago said on Wednesday.
“I’ve pretty much ticked all the boxes so far, I’m just getting my reps back under my feet so I’m good to go when the time comes.”
It was in the 77th minute of Penrith’s blockbuster against the Bunnies at Accor Stadium where Tago injured his pec while attempting to tackle forward Michael Chee-Kam.
Tago said he was fortunate he was able to rehab the injury without surgery.
“I probably had the best result possible in terms of how badly I did it,” he said.
“This was a new injury for me. Out of all the injuries I’ve had, I’ve never had one like this. It actually felt OK at the time, I finished the game, but it was more the next day where I couldn’t really do anything, like drive.”
After playing nearly every match in 2022, it was an unusual sight for Panthers supporters seeing the talented game breaker on the sidelines.
Tago said while being part of the rehab crew was tough, he didn’t mind taking a short break away from playing.
“It’s actually been alright, it’s been good to have a break and look at the game from a different perspective,” he admitted.
“Rehab was hard to start with, not being able to do anything with your upper body. I was just doing legs the whole time.
“The other injured boys were mixing it up, but I was stuck doing legs and squats. My legs were gone!”
Following six-long weeks out the game, Tago said he can’t wait to finally play some footy again. And while the Dragons and Panthers sit at opposite ends of the NRL ladder, Tago said he’s always found the Red V to be a huge challenge whenever he’s played them.
“Despite them coming last and their form being up and down, I know every time I’ve played them, they’ve always been physical and up for a game,” the St Marys junior said.
“I find sometimes things don’t go their way because they play a backyard style type of footy. They might make mistakes out there but as hard as it is for them to play that style of footy, it’s hard to defend too.
“They’ll be solid on Sunday night and that’s what makes them so dangerous.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.