Willie Isa knows all about the threat posed by Grand Final opponents Lachlan Coote and Zeb Taia – because he grew up on the same junior teams as they grew up in the highly competitive Penrith leagues.
The city in west Sydney is known for its rugby star conveyor belt, where 24 clubs with only 13. 000 inhabitants play.
Isa and Coote followed senior Taia to advance to the Australian NRL before moving to the Super League. Now the trio is sharing a Grand Final field after growing up on the same junior fields.
Wigan rower Isa stated, “Lachlan Coote is my husband. I always played a year above my age group and he played on the same teams and was a year younger again.
« He always played up there for two years and was always the first full-back. He was a stringy little boy, but he was quick – he did a few tries for us back then. He has the heart of a lion, I’ve always respected him and his game.
“I remember Zeb growing up because he was two or three years older than me and I always looked up to him. He was fine then and doing exactly the same things he was then. He’s a rower, a tough guy and a good all-rounder.
« They are both good people who come from good families, as is the case in West Sydney and Penrith. There was no football there when I was growing up.
« Penrith is the largest junior system in the world – it’s just one way of life, every kid always has a rugby league ball. ”
This upbringing has also helped shape Isa’s desire to help local communities, something he actively pursued during his time in England. He volunteered for the NHS at the start of the pandemic and has visited children’s homes through his collaboration with the Warriors’ Foundation – a stark contrast to the often confrontational figures fans see on the field.
Isa explained: “They are two different types of people. I never really watch my games because I’m just doing my job and doing my best for the team and the people I represent. I’m a completely different guy from the field – I am relaxed and like to laugh.
“Congregation work came from my childhood – Penrith is a working class city and people want to help. If I can put a smile on someone’s face, I’m all for it, especially in these times when the world is a little bit crazy and people are losing jobs and having financial difficulties.
« When I think I could use my status a little more and get out and do more, but I try my best even if it’s just about delivering groceries to the elderly in my area. « . ”
This week Isa surprised 66-year-old Wigan fan Norman Prior before the decisive clash on Friday as part of a collaboration with Super League sponsor Dacia.
Norman said, “Willie and the team kept us sane during the pandemic. In all honesty, they were brilliant. I was amazed to meet Willie, it was a fantastic experience. ”
Super League sponsors Dacia have teamed up with Wigan striker Willie Isa and St Helens winger Tommy Makinson to surprise two fans ahead of this year’s Betfred Super League grand final. Click here to learn more.
Lachlan Coote, Willie Isa, Super League, Wigan Warriors, St. Helens R. . F.. . C.. . , Grand Final, Shaun Wane, Penrith Panthers
World news – GB – Willie Isa desperately wants to carry junior team-mate Lachlan Coote in the Super League decision
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