The unstoppable force
Jason Taumalolo takes out Australian rugby league’s oldest individual award
“It’s obviously one of the biggest achievements of my career so far”
JASON TAUMALOLO HAS CERTAINLY PACKED AN almighty punch every time he’s rumbled and rocked opponents this year – and he’s revealed to RLW that he’s become the most destructive forward in the game today on the back of intense boxing sessions each week with conditioner Anthony Wood. The Kiwi international always had size, power, strength and speed, but the consistency he once lacked is now there for all to see thanks to those intense extra sessions. “That’s been the big one for me, just gaining the work ethic I needed as a forward,” Taumalolo says. “I wasn’t that consistent in my younger days, so one of the biggest things I’ve worked on is to get myself into a routine.
“I have a boxing routine every week in the last session before our captain’s run and it serves as a lesson that if I work hard off the field, it’ll show on the field.
“Anthony Wood is my mitt holder and he’s taken me through the boxing sessions this year and last year. I’m convinced it’s why I’ve been more consistent. Now I know hard work pays off in the end.”
Taumalolo’s humility is clear to see when told of his RLW Player of the Year award, and how the likes of Thurston – the only other Cowboy to take out the honour – Arthur Beetson, Peter Sterling and Andrew Johns are past winners.
“When I think that guys like that have won the award before me, it’s obviously one of the biggest achievements of my career so far,” he says. “It’s a first for me, and a huge honour and privilege to win the award.”
Taumalolo thrives when he believes in his heart his coach has the ultimate belief in him.
“Before Greeny came we had a different coaching staff and I wasn’t playing much first-grade footy,” he recalls. “I was barely talking to the coaches at the time but when Greeny came [in 2014] he said he was really excited to be working with me and that I could become one of the best players in the comp if I worked hard.
“He had faith me and as a young player coming through the ranks, that’s what I needed. I’ve repaid that faith by playing great footy the past couple of seasons.”
Another conversation with Green last year convinced Taumalolo to reject a massive offer from the Warriors.
“At that stage of his career he was still developing and if he stayed with us I thought he’d continue his development, which is how it turned out,” Green says.
“I hope there’s never a right time for him to leave our club, but I don’t think to leave would’ve been best for him at the time despite the money being thrown at him.
“It was a big tick in my book for him to knock that back because we were nowhere near the money they were offering.
“Jase has found some more consistency in his preparation and he’s more comfortable in the team, and more comfortable speaking up about how we are playing or what we need to do.
“Most importantly, he backs up what he says, and that gives him real credibility in the group.”
And in news that’ll depress his opponents, Green believes his backrower can keep turning it up a notch.
“Jase gets an opportunity to offload now and then but he thinks ‘safety first’, which is good, but that’s an area he can improve,” Green says.
“His running game is his strength, so defence is probably an area he has to keep working on.
“We’ve seen glimpses of that where he’s made big defensive plays this year.”
Taumalolo blotted his copybook two weeks ago when he was fined $2500 for his part in an egging incident. It’s a minor transgression, but Taumalolo has shown he’s contrite by apologising to his teammates, club and community.
“On the scale of misdemeanours this is pretty low, but on the scale of stupidity it’s extremely high,” Green says.
“But look at what he did, and we’ve all done it. We’ve got to keep this in context.”
And in the context of helping North Queensland win two on the trot, club legend and highperformance manager Paul Bowman says Taumalolo is without peer.
“He’s 116 kilos and his explosiveness and speed off the mark is very important in our game when you’re talking about momentum,” Bowman says.
“It’s very hard to stop someone that big moving that quick who can change direction without slowing too much.”
Bowman says the Player of the Year honour is “much deserved”.
“He’s moving towards being one of the premier players in the game,” he says. “Typically guys like JT and Cameron Smith win the big awards and they are much deserved when they do, but those guys are the first to admit they can’t do what they do without the effort of guys like Jase.”