How Jason gets into beast mode
HE’S rugby league’s modern-day prototype who will smash all types of records before his NRL career is over, but Jason Taumalolo’s game-day diet is fed by a PlayStation and a pillow. On repeat.
It’s not an uncommon scenario for the current era’s nocturnal NRL stars, some of whom like Taumalolo barely know what it’s like to play any time other than under floodlights.
But ever wondered what goes through the mind of the man set to wreak havoc on the NRL for the next decade?
Mostly, the Cowboys beast’s match-day preparation resembles that of Average Joe looking for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
He will squeeze out of bed when he’s ready, not when he’s told. Energy is conserved, not spent. Breakfast will be optional. Video games near necessary. Just a temporary distraction before his next sleep.
‘‘I normally don’t wake up until about 10.30 or 11 and on a normal game day I won’t have breakfast,’’ Taumalolo said on the eve of North Queensland’s showdown with Melbourne in the grand final. ‘‘Depending if I’m home I’ll play PlayStation when I wake up and it’s a pretty chilledout day.
‘‘If we’re away the boys and I like to go have a coffee and a bit of a walk around wherever we’re staying. We’ll have lunch and then I’m back into bed about three or four hours later.’’
His intimidating frame fed and fuelled while having slept half the day away, Taumalolo will arrive at the ground a couple of hours before kick-off. Standard fare. Superstitions? He doesn’t have many, but diving for the lolly bag is one.
‘‘I always eat red snakes before the game,’’ Taumalolo said. ‘‘And I always put my right boot on first before the left.’’
The warm-ups out of the way, Taumalolo is an edgy starter. He demands a carry in the first set, those thunderous thighs itching to pump like pistons as opposition defenders circle. One, two, three, four. All trying to drag down the NRL’s new-age wrecking ball. ‘‘That first carry is when all the nerves settle and I can get into a bit of a rhythm,’’ he said.
‘‘Every first set we get I try to get a touch or get a carry and I think from there I pick up the game. I go from there.’’
Taumalolo hears his name called out, opposition defenders baiting him to take the next charge. In the build-up to big games, he knows who wants his scalp.
Unlike yesteryear, attack rather than defence is his intimidatory weapon of choice. Run over the top of them rather than stand over the top of them.
‘You can’t really hit people with late shots or go after someone without the ball [these days], so I think the best way [to make my mark] is to find them with the ball and make a statement with a carry whenever you’ve got the ball,’’ Taumalolo said.
An early statement is made. The first few runs are explora- The Sun-Herald GETTY IMAGES tory. Ball in hand, what you looking for? ‘‘People not moving,’’ Taumalolo said. ‘‘Normally in a defensive line you will see defenders coming up together presenting a straight line, but I’m always looking for that odd defender that’s not in the line. That’s where I like to exploit.
‘‘How I get there is entirely up to me. If I can get around a few defenders that’s good, if I have to use a bit of feet to find those gaps then I’ll use them.’’
The numbers rack up. Metre after metre after metre. Postcontact metres. Rolled gold in the current game. Taumalolo hurtles headfirst into the defence again and again, running for more than 5000 metres this season – with one game to go. And still some said he had a quiet start to the year.
But do the numbers really matter? ‘‘No, not really,’’ he said. ‘‘The boys bring it up in training during reviews. It doesn’t feel like at the time I’ve run for 200 metres or whatever, but they’ll say, ‘you’ve run for so-and-so metres’ and I’m not much of a stats man.’’
Jason Taumalolo loves a lie-in, video games and red snakes to get him in the mood for smashing opponents.