Isaah Yeo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard might be still great mates off the field but the Panthers skipper knows only one of them will walk off the field smiling on Sunday night.
Eight years after helping guide the then NSW Cup Panthers to premiership glory, the two barnstorming forwards will lock horns in the first ever Grand Final meeting between the Western Sydney rivals in Penrith and Parramatta.
“As a mate, I’m just happy for him because it’s very hard to get to this arena, your first grand final. I just wish it wasn’t against us,” Yeo told NRL.com.
“We’re still good mates and talk often but we don’t talk before games. I don’t think we’ll be mates for the 80 minutes on Sunday either.
“One of us is going to win and one of us is going to lose. I’m hoping I’m the one with the smile and he’s looking sad at the end of the game.”Isaah Yeo on former teammate Reagan Campbell-Gillard
The recently awarded Dally M Captain of the Year acknowledged his former teammate has found himself back in career-best form in the blue and gold, but after also moving homes, joked of the irony of the 29-year-old enforcer now living “smack bam” in the middle of the two rugby league heartlands.
“Sometimes I think you just need a fresh change of scenery and that’s what he came out and said when he moved,” Yeo said.
“And I think he’s been outstanding for them and probably this year he’s taken on a bit more of a leadership role for them and it’s definitely showing with his football.
“He’s living in Caddens now, so he’s funnily enough probably smack bam in between Parramatta and Penrith.”
With the countdown on until game day, the 27-year-old skipper said the reigning premiers' biggest game day priority will be shutting down Parramatta’s league-leading offloads which have been the barometer for their success this season.
An all-time Battle of the West
“Parramatta’s ability to offload and play off the cuff has been outstanding this year and it’s something that’s troubled us, particularly in the regular season,” Yeo said.
“I think they came out and said they probably lost that a bit in the first semi so I’m sure they’ll be trying to go back to that.
“They’re a big physical pack who offload well and they’ve got some real stars in the outside back particularly Clint Gutherson and Mitch Moses so we’ll need to be at our best.”
Match: Panthers v Eels
Grand Final -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney