Written by Callum Walker
For three seasons, Jharal Yow Yeh lit up the NRL. But, just four rounds into the 2012 competition and the elusive winger suffered a compound fracture to his right leg. That ended what was already an incredibly bright-looking career and robbed Rugby League of a fantastic talent.
The signs were there early on of Yow Yeh’s ability, debuting for the Brisbane Broncos – for whom he played all his short career – in the first round of the 2009 NRL season. At just 19 years of age, the winger had forced his way into then head coach Ivan Henjak’s reckoning.
Nine tries in 14 appearances in his first season was impressive to say the least, considering that he only left teenage years at the end of 2009. Going from strength-to-strength, the Queenslander was named in the Indigenous All Stars team in 2010 and was called up to the 2010 State of Origin series – although he wasn’t named in the team.
Scoring eight tries in 19 games that year, Yow Yeh was making a real name for himself. So much so that in 2011, he finally made his Queensland debut as well as his national debut for Australia. In recognition of the 14 tries in 23 appearances he had accrued and his overall impressive finishing, running and hard-hitting defending, Yow Yeh earned international plaudits, scooping up the international rookie of the year at the RLIF annual awards dinner in London.
Yow Yeh could do no wrong; his teammates hailed him, the Brisbane fans adored him and his coaching staff admired him. Preparation for the 2012 season ended as normal, but in just the fourth round of the 2012 season, disaster struck.
Down 12-0 at the time of his injury, Brisbane went on to reign victorious against South Sydney Rabbitohs, 20-12. But all the attention focused on Yow Yeh’s horrific incident. A cross-field bomb aiming for the winger caused chaos; Yow Yeh tumbled in an awkward fashion, suffering a horrendous compound fracture.
Leading Brisbane surgeon Dr Peter Myers labelled it the worst injury he had ever seen in Rugby League. A “motorbike-like” impact, the injury was such that broken bone pierced through his right leg, rendering the winger in extreme distress in the in-goal area.
Yow Yeh didn’t give up – despite doctors’ advice – and made a slow but steady comeback. He returned to play with junior club Norths Devils in the Queensland Cup in 2013 as well as making an appearance for the Broncos in a trial game in 2014.
But, regardless of Yow Yeh’s incredible mental strength, his physical capacity – most notably his pace and agility – was no longer there and, in March 2014, he announced his retirement from the game.
It was a testament to the impact Yow Yeh had on the Brisbane club that, in his final press conference where he announced his retirement, all of the squad and staff gave the winger a standing ovation. At just 24 and after ten ankle operations and two years of despair, Yow Yeh just could not make it back after that devastating night in Perth.