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Isaah Yeo in huge admission about Stephen Crichton's Penrith exit before NRL season

Penrith's co-captain says the value of his former teammate cannot be overstated.

Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo has paid Stephen Crichton a massive compliment after suggesting the new Bulldogs captain will be the hardest of his former teammates to replace at the NRL premiers. Crichton was an integral part of Penrith's three straight grand final wins, but decided he was ready to take up a new challenge by joining Canterbury this season.

Crichton has already made his mark on the Bulldogs and coach Cameron Ciraldo after being appointed as the team's new captain for 2024. Ciraldo said Crichton's leadership qualities were quickly evident during the club's army camp in pre-season and is excited by what the three-time premiership winner brings to the Bulldogs.

On the right is Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo and former teammate Stephen Crichton.
Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo says the loss of Stephen Crichton is going to be heavily felt at the club. Pic: Getty

Yeo echoed the Canterbury coach's thoughts and suggested that out of the list of superstars who've departed the Panthers over the last few years, it's Crichton who'll be missed the most. “It’s hard to replace ‘Critta’, he’s played 100 games, and his best games have all been in the biggest moments,” Yeo told The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Panthers have lost a plethora of top-line talent over the last few years such as Api Koroisau, Matt Burton, Viliame Kikau, Kurt Capewell, Spencer Leniu and Crichton. But Penrith's co-captain said more than most it was Crichton who seemed to consistently stand up in the biggest games and his energy and personality off the field will also be "sorely missed" at Penrith.

“He’s never played poorly on the Origin arena, he’s come up with big plays in grand finals, and he kicked the field-goal to put Samoa into the World Cup final. No moment is too big for him," Yeo said. “It’s not just what he brought on the field in those big moments, it was off the field, too. He brought the energy, he was incredibly professional, and a good leader for a lot of the younger boys as well."

Crichton is yet to feature in an NRL game for the Bulldogs but has taken on the captaincy role after Ciraldo opted to last season's co-captains Reed Mahoney and Matt Burton. The Bulldogs haven't played finals footy since 2016 when Des Hasler was coach and finished a disappointing 15th on the ladder in Ciraldo's first season at the helm in 2023, but are backing Crichton's leadership to help bring success back to the proud club.

Stephen Crichton's leadership skills impress Bulldogs

“Stephen is a really good reader of energy. He understands when people are a little bit flat, low on energy, and when it’s a bit quiet, and he can change the mood in an instant," the Bulldogs coach said about his captaincy appointment. "Sometimes that’s with some annoying music or sounds, or loud noises that he comes up with but he’s great at bringing people together.

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"He really understands bringing positive energy to the group and he’s been such a valuable asset to us this pre-season. Reed [Mahoney] and Burto [Matt Burton] have played integral roles in setting the foundation for our team’s success, both on and off the field. They did an exceptional job being thrown in the deep end last year and put their hands up during a challenging year to help guide our young squad. There were a lot of lessons and learnings out of last year and both Reed and Burto will be better from the experience of it.”

Pictured right, new Bulldogs captain Stephen Crichton.
Stephen Crichton has taken over the captaincy at the Bulldogs from Matt Burton and Reed Mahoney in 2024. Pic: Getty

Crichton said after being named captain that he plans on leading with his actions on the field and the centre's first test comes in Saturday evening's season opener for the Bulldogs against Parramatta at CommBank Stadium. "You put the team first, you go out there and you play your heart out. That’s what being a Bulldog means. I can’t wait to go out there and play for them [the Bulldogs] and for my family.” Crichton said.

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