The un­stop­pable force

Ja­son Tau­malolo takes out Aus­tralian rugby league’s old­est in­di­vid­ual award

Rugby League Week - - News - By Joel Gould

“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.”

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