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John making 'second' NRL debut for Penrith

Even when Isaac John was losing sleep over what had gone wrong with his rugby league career, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary didn't hesitate to pick up the phone.
John making 'second' NRL debut for Penrith
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, May 9 AAP - Even when Isaac John was losing sleep over what had gone wrong with his rugby league career, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary didn't hesitate to pick up the phone.

John's second coming at five-eighth for the Panthers against Melbourne on Sunday comes five years after Cleary handed him a debut at the Warriors in 2009.

His NRL lifeline also comes amid a halves crisis at the foot of the mountains.

John and halfback Luke Walsh form the fourth Panthers halves pairing in nine matches this season. Just in time to take on a Storm side marshalled by the most reliable general in the game, Cooper Cronk.

At the Warriors, John's development was halted by a knee reconstruction and he was eventually usurped by a young talent named Shaun Johnson.

He moved to the English Super League for the 2012 season, and by his own admission failed at the Wakefield Wildcats.

John has learnt plenty of lessons along the way.

Enough to recognise that Sunday's date with Cronk and the Storm superstars is a golden opportunity rather than something to be daunted by.

"It feels more like a debut again for me," John told AAP.

"I didn't live up to my own expectations in England ... and I know I was very lucky to get this opportunity.

"Ivan has given me another opportunity here so I just want to repay him.

"He asked if I wanted to come out here for a year, no promises.

"I jumped at the opportunity and about three days later I was on the plane."

Five-eighth options Lachlan Coote, Blake Austin and Tom Humble are all injured, and even No.7 Walsh has been dropped once this year as part of the playmaking turnstile.

In his one week in NSW Cup, Walsh combined well with John to engineer a big 40-16 win for Windsor over Illawarra.

Cleary is confident his unsettled combination at the scrumbase won't affect John and called on the 24-year-old to seize his chance.

"It's over to Isaac," said Cleary.

"Isaac is a very, very capable player. He organises well and has a good passing game.

"It's a very good opportunity for him this week and I'm sure he won't leave anything in the shed.




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