How Good Is: Jason Taumalolo
Move over Johnathan Thurston, there’s a new JT in town and he’s gunning for all who get in his way. Just turned 21, the Tongan international already has more than 50 first-grade games to his name following his debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old in 2010 – the youngest man to do so in Cowboys history.
While former North Queensland coach Neil Henry may have had reservations about how Taumalolo played the game, new Cowboys mentor Paul Green has had no qualms about utilising the boom youngster, preferring Taumalolo in the starting side ahead of more experienced players such as Glenn Hall and Scott Bolton. Heck, veteran Ashton Sims can’t even get a look in.
This season Taumalolo, measuring 191cm and weighing in at 112kg, has smashed through 52 tackle breaks and is averaging 121.1 metres each week. And his defence has come on in leaps and bounds too; Taumalolo averages 20.4 tackles per game and misses just 1.6 tackles every 80 minutes.
The kid is on the record as saying that just like his hero, New Zealand legend Ruben Wiki, he enjoys running over people – and we enjoy watching him do so.
Trademark Play: Whether or not you would describe ‘running over people’ as a play in itself, it sure is Taumalolo’s trademark. Whether busting through the line or carrying several defenders along with him, Taumalolo is an absolute machine when it comes to hitting up the pill. Good luck to anyone who attempts to take down a bolting 112kg lump of man. You’ll need it. The scariest thing though: did we mention he’s only 21?
Key Moments: Taumalolo repaid the faith of Paul Green immediately in Round 1 this season, making around 200 metres and several line-breaks with his bullocking runs. However, there will be one run in particular that will feature on the Taumalolo highlights reel in years to come. A run which saw the young dynamo unseat the Titans' 'Coal Train' Dave Taylor – no small feat. Taking a regulation hit-up one-off the ruck, Taumalolo fired up his legs like pistons. Taylor, sneakily thinking he might smash the youngster from side-on, was instantly met, to his immense shock, by a squared-up Taumalolo who left the larger Taylor sprawled and dazed before carrying on up-field.