As he reflects on his best start to a season since his rookie year, Jamayne Isaako has spoken about the crucial role Wayne Bennett has played through the toughest period of his life.
After emerging as one of the NRL's most exciting talents back in 2018 under the guidance of Bennett at the Broncos, which included winning Dally M Rookie of the Year honours and earning a Kiwis Test call up that season, Isaako's life changed completely the following year when dad Taai was diagnosed with cancer.
Alongside spending as much time as possible with Taai prior to him passing away in mid-2020, Isaako continued his career with the Broncos through until he was granted a release to join the Titans in the first month of last season.
But once on the Gold Coast he struggled, appearing just 11 times at NRL level and finishing the year playing reserve grade, with his prospects for 2023 looking dim.
Jamayne’s journey: How dad’s heartbreaking death inspires Isaako
So when the chance came up to once again link with Bennett at the NRL's newest team, Isaako knew it would be the best thing for his career.
"I lost my dad in 2020, and not being able to have that father figure in in my life... Wayne has sort of been that mentor ever since I moved away from home," Isaako told NRL.com.
He brought me to Brisbane [as a teenager] and sort of took care of me in that sense.... he's sort of been like that father figure and he gives that to a lot of the boys actually.Jamayne Isaako
"I have just got a really good relationship with him.
"When Wayne gave me a call about possibly coming to the Dolphins, for me it was a bit of a no brainer."
So far this year Isaako has been one of the competition's form wingers, scoring eight tries in nine games and kicking 32 goals to lead the NRL in scoring ahead of Magic Round.
Also back is the step and evasive running style that helped him play five Tests for the Kiwis, and so far this year he averages 4.2 tackle busts and 166 run metres per game.
Isaako finds the line twice
The 26-year-old said Bennett has been key to him returning to playing consistent football at NRL level, with the supercoach demanding it from him through the pre-season.
"He rode the hell out of me during the pre-season. Whenever I made a mistake, he was just always on my case," Isaako said.
"But when you know someone's riding you and on your case, it's means that he cares for you and obviously just wants the best out of you.
"It's probably one of the main reasons why he’s been so successful in so many clubs, because he does care about his players and he's genuine about that.
"It's sort of worked out for me. I am back to some good form and playing some good footy and hopefully I can continue playing consistently like that through the rest of the year."