Re-invigorated by his late-season instalment into the starting front row, Cowboys prop Ashton Sims says he is relishing packing down alongside representative big man Matt Scott.
Ahead of Monday night's potential finals-securing clash against the depleted Sharks, Sims opened up on what it was like playing next to a player he labelled the best forward Queensland had ever produced.
“Just to be playing alongside Matt Scott - he’d hate me to say it - but he will go down as one of the best front-rowers Queensland has had in my eyes," he said.
"And the opportunity in 10 or so years time to look back with my son and my kids and say that I played with a guy like him, it’s definitely motivation.
“I’m really relishing running out there first and especially that first 20 minutes. That’s when you want to be out there. That’s when everyone’s all pumped up and ready to go and it’s sometimes hard to sit on the bench.”
Scott returned the compliment, identifying that their season had turned a corner after Sims' insertion into the run-on side.
Since Tamou went down, the 29-year-old has registered 122 metres per game in his past six, compared with 87 metres per game prior.
“(Ashton) is loving that added responsibility. I thought it probably took him a few games to get used to and the last month he’s been one of our best players," Scott said.
"I think he’s really come along. It’s probably exceeded his own expectations with the amount of minutes and quality he’s playing with at the moment. It’s one of the real reasons we’ve been winning."
As one of the club’s vocal leaders, Sims is doing it by example, and the effects have been two-fold: it has given impetus to the young players such as Jason Taumalolo and it has put less responsibility on Tamou in his return from a neck injury that was worse than originally thought.
“Jimmy (Tamou) loves it. While Jimmy would love to be starting, as any player would, he knows 'Basher' is in good form at the moment and Jimmy was just happy to be back in the side,” Scott said.
Added Sims: “We have a good healthy relationship, Jimmy and I, we are really good mates and we always give each other confidence no matter what; there’s no egos in this team. He could easily step in that (starting) role and I could step back into the bench role and it wouldn’t bother either one of us.”
While on paper the Cowboys should win comfortably, this coming game presents its own set of challenges, which will be keenly observed by coach Paul Green.
Green’s mantra all year has been taking each week as a building block toward the ultimate goal of a premiership, and with just two games before finals, could think of nothing worse than a mental lapse ahead of a game that even the bookies rate a sure thing.
Scott is well aware of his side becoming complacent, and says the more hurt Cronulla can dish up, the better.
“I think a grind is good for us as a team. Personally I feel better in a grind," he said.
"The Wests Tigers game is really unfamiliar territory and I think it can get you playing footy that we shouldn’t be playing coming to this end of the year.
"We are preparing as if it’s going to be a grind, I hope it is and that’s the type of footy we’ve got to play,” he said.