After missing six games with a pesky hamstring injury he suffered at training, Izack Tago says he’s ready to make up for lost time.
The 21-year-old has been in and out of Penrith’s line-up all season – first dealing with a lengthy pectoral injury before being sidelined for longer than expected with a recent hamstring complaint.
Tago made his comeback during Penrith’s monster win over the North Queensland Cowboys last Saturday where they also wrapped up the Minor Premiership for the second straight year.
Speaking with the Weekender on Tuesday, the St Marys junior said he was thrilled to make his return just in time for Finals.
“I was supposed to come back way before last weekend, but I ended up reaggravating the injury,” Tago said.
“It was good to get back out there and have a run with the boys.”
Confined to just 14 games this year, Tago said while it’s been a frustrating season on a personal note, he has to look at the positives.
“That’s footy… it is what it is,” he said.
“Obviously, it’s been annoying, but I just took it on the chin and tried to use that time off to build my game off the field.”
Tago played 60 minutes in his comeback game, getting through unscathed after running 122 metres and making nine tackles.
The Samoan international said coach Ivan Cleary wanted him to get a decent stint on the playing field before Finals get underway this Saturday.
“He just wanted me to get some game fitness before Finals,” Tago said.
“I don’t know if I was supposed to play that long, but I was feeling good, looking good, and it was no worries. It was a good little blowout to find my feet again. It was better than the first time I came back from injury, I was just keen to get back.”
The talented centre will play his second straight game since coming back from his injured hamstring when the Panthers take on the New Zealand Warriors in this Saturday afternoon’s Qualifying Final at BlueBet Stadium.
The match is tipped to be a sell-out, with scores of fans expected to travel from across the ditch to be part of the Finals atmosphere.
“The Warriors have been heaps good and have a mad following too. They always get up for games and their crowd helps them with that,” Tago said.
“They seem like a community club too, and it’s like they are playing more than just for the team. Like us, they are playing for the people, and I think that always helps.”
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.