By Greg Prichard, NRL.com
North Queensland prop
James Tamou provided a reminder of just how long ago it was that Sonny Bill
Williams made his first-grade debut when he mentioned having idolised SBW
Tamou, the NSW and Australian
prop, will get the chance to play against Williams for the first time when the
Cowboys meet Sydney Roosters at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
Born in December,
1988, Tamou is only three years and four months younger than Williams, who was born
in August, 1985.
But SBW made his
first-grade debut for Canterbury as an 18-year-old in March, 2004, when Tamou
was just 15, so Tamou, who, like Williams, was born in New Zealand, isn’t exaggerating
when he says Williams was one of his schoolboy heroes.
“I remember growing up
and going to school and he (Williams) was a bit of an idol,” Tamou said. “So we
know it will be a tough match-up and that we’ve got to be on our toes to stop
him. It’s going to be a good test for us.”
Asked if there was
the potential for him to be in awe of Williams going into a game like this,
Tamou replied: “Yeah, it is a bit. I still remember some of the hits he put on
(former Penrith and Brisbane prop) Joel Clinton and guys like that, back in
“So I’m sort of glad the
shoulder charge rule has been put in place! But he’s not only a good defender,
he’s got good attack and he can offload and we’ve just got to be aware of
The shoulder charge
was a big part of SBW’s weapon collection, but he has never remotely been a
one-dimensional player and the outlawing of that tackle hasn’t made him any
In fact, most experts
believe Williams is an even better player now than when he left the game for
rugby union midway through the 2008 season.
Williams, at 27,
would be in his 10th season of first grade had he remained in rugby
league throughout his career.
He has been a major
threat for the Roosters this season and North Queensland coach Neil Henry, like
Tamou, is well aware of how dangerous SBW is to the home side’s chances of
winning this game.
“He’s a handful,”
Henry said. “And he’s got a nice set of hands. He can offload the ball and
throw a nice pass. He’s playing some good footy.”
The Roosters are in
second place on the competition table, with seven wins and two losses. The
Cowboys are 10th, with four wins and five losses.
Tamou has played in
all nine games this season, and has made a big impact in terms of metres
He has played for an
average of 54.4 minutes per game and made an average of 142.8 metres. His best
match was 203 metres and only once has he finished a game with less than 100
metres. Even then he was very close, with 97.
But the 194cm and
113kg Tamou knows that against a Roosters team that is clearly the best
defensive outfit in the competition every metre gained is going to have to be
The Roosters have
conceded just 86 points this season, at a miserly rate of just 9.5 per game.
“It’s going to be a
tough one,” Tamou said. “They are definitely a heavyweight in the competition,
and we need to show that we want to be a part of the top teams, especially
coming off a hard loss against the Rabbitohs last week.”
Tamou said he was
disappointed Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves wouldn’t be playing against
the Cowboys after being sent off and suspended for five matches for a high
tackle on Manly forward George Rose in last Monday’s 16-4 win to the Roosters.
“It’s always exciting
going up against JWH,” he said. “It will hopefully make us go better, knowing
he’s not on the field, but in saying that they’ve got a good team roster so
they will always bring in another good player.”
Tamou said he also
had plenty of time for the other regular starting prop at the Roosters – Martin
“He’s going really
good,” Tamou said. “He’s a big boy and tough to handle, so we’re going to have
to be on our ‘A’ game to stop him from getting them going forward.”