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Rookie sensation To'o keen to be a bigger aerial threat in 2020

Penrith flyer Brian To'o went from rookie to international winger in the space of a season and he's already adding new strings to his bow for next year.

The Panthers junior was rewarded for a strong debut NRL campaign with his Test debut for Samoa in the loss to Fiji earlier in November. 

"It was crazy and awesome to play for my country," To'o reflected.

"Obviously we didn't get the win. But I'm looking forward to the [2021] World Cup, hopefully I get chosen for that, and I'd be keen to play for Samoa once again.

"During my break I was just sitting in the lounge room with my mum, she was just saying how proud she was ... [It's] changing everyone's lives, so it's good."

To'o, already a gifted ball-runner and finisher, will be primed to pluck bombs from the sky next season after absorbing the advice of GWS Giants defender Jake Stein.

Stein, an ex-track and field athlete who competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, made his AFL debut this year.

World Cup 9s Player Focus: Brian To'o

Born and raised in Penrith, Stein was invited to Panthers training last week to work with the club's backs on leaping and catching.

Rising youngster To'o said he found a lot of value in Stein's perspectives from the rival code.

"It was really good – I got something out of it, especially with catching," the 21-year-old told

"I think I've kind of got jumping covered. But mostly catching, that really helped me out – getting to the highest point of your fingertips and being able to catch the ball and defend situations."

AFL player helps Panthers fly high

Stein was impressed by the squad's aerial abilities and nominated teenage centre Stephen Crichton and fullback Dylan Edwards as particular standouts.

"All of them really had something there – now I guess they can tap into it a little bit more," Stein told Penrith's website.

"Maybe [they'll have] that little bit of extra thinking when they're executing the skill."

The eccentric To'o quickly endeared himself to Penrith fans in 2019, scoring nine tries after coming into the side in round 10.

However, he isn't taking anything for granted as 2020 approaches.

"It's still fresh, I reckon," To'o said. "I still buzz out when I come into training seeing all these boys I used to look up to.

"Being able to train alongside them every day is crazy."

Along with teammates Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo, To'o helped promote the Panthers' new role as an associate sponsor of the Penrith District Rugby League Referees' Association last Thursday.

To'o said it was crucial to nurture emerging whistleblowers.

"It's kind of like without your missus, you won't have a relationship," To'o quipped.

"Without the refs we wouldn't be playing, we wouldn't be training, we wouldn't working, obviously.

"We give all our respect to the refs that are out there working hard for us to support our game."

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.