James Tamou's 2013 of highs and lows finished with the birth of his son Brooklyn and a World Cup win with the Kangaroos. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos
Kangaroos prop James Tamou has revealed how the soothing words of North Queensland and Australia teammate Matt Scott helped to resurrect his career when he was convinced he was going to lose it all.
As they do for the Cowboys each week, Tamou and Scott will line up alongside each in other in the green-and-gold engine room on Friday night against a New Zealand forward pack pilloried for its absences rather than lauded for those who gained selection.
This latest clash with the Kiwis will be the eighth time that Tamou and Scott have represented their country together but as he sat in the Townsville watch house almost 12 months ago, Tamou convinced himself that he was about to lose everything he cherished most.
Not just a lucrative rugby league career but the support of his partner, Brittney McGlone, who was heavily pregnant with the couple's first child at the time of his high-range drink driving arrest and subsequent conviction.
It was a precarious position that he took complete responsibility for and it was only the words from Scott and the Cowboys leadership group that enabled him to emerge from the toughest period of his life.
"It was actually [Scott] that said something," Tamou said of the reaction of Cowboys players to his arrest in June last year.
"All the leadership group for the Cowboys all got together and they sat me down... I'd heard it from the coaches and [Cowboys football manager] Peter Parr, they were all telling me to pull my head in but it was actually him that said – and this really helped me because it picked me up – but it was him that said, 'We're not here to roast you, these things happen. We're all on your side, we're going to stick by you and do everything that we can to help you.'
"With everything that happened I was feeling down already but hearing that picked me up and made me feel a lot better about the situation. That's why I've got a lot of respect for him.
"Spending a few hours in the watch house, that was scary. Sitting there the worst things were going through my head and I didn't know what I was going to do for myself.
"The thought of losing it all was definitely there and just the thought of the Cowboys ripping my contract up and clubs thinking that I'm just a troublemaker and that they wouldn't want anything to do with me, all of that went through my head."
Despite the low of heavy fines and having to watch New South Wales lose Game Two of the Origin Series while he watched with mates back home in Townsville, Tamou's year ended with the birth of his son Brooklyn and a World Cup triumph with the Kangaroos.
Although he spends the best part of his week in his company at the Cowboys, it was in England with the Kangaroos squad where Tamou's admiration for Scott went to an even higher level.
"It's no secret he's a leader, he's the co-captain of [the Cowboys], but he also surprised me at the World Cup over in England," the 25-year-old said. "You look at all these players who are also leaders for their clubs; Matt Scott was definitely a standout.
"He was the one taking it upon himself to talk to someone else about their role in the side and he took on that leadership role and it surprised a lot of people. Everyone knows Cameron Smith is the captain but Matt Scott was really doing that leadership role and I just took a step back and watched him.
"He's that type of person where when he talks, everyone in the room knows to listen. He's just got that presence about him and he's such a good part of this team and for the game in general."
They're lessons that Tamou is desperately trying to master himself and after two years of more headlines than he'd prefer, the 194-centimetre giant is doing his best to become someone his teammates look up to, both literally and figuratively.
"I know a lot of the [Cowboys players] look up to me not only on the field but off the field and I suppose I should take that leadership role on," he said.
"Going out drink driving and that sort of stuff, you don't want to portray that sort of picture on yourself so I definitely do want to have that feeling of leadership between the boys and I know that they can look up to me and take something out of it."