Not often does the word ‘swagger’ find its way into the lexicon when analysing the NRL’s mountain men. With one of the league’s more uncompromising game plans, they have plodders all over the park – from Nigel Plum, Sam McKendry and Tim Grant in the middle out to winger Josh Mansour, who currently sits third league-wide in metres per game.
But there is one man who makes it up in droves. Arguably Penrith’s most important player, eccentric hooker James Segeyaro breaks the mould and is widely considered the league’s form No. 9.
The only predictable thing about Segeyaro is his unpredictability – something that doesn’t just stop at the footy field.
“He’s a really loud fella. He’s actually a really good mate. He’s probably a little bit different, has his own type of style so it definitely stands out. Probably dresses a little bit different to all the boys,” former teammate and Cowboys centre Kane Linnett told NRL.com.
That quirky fashion sense can only be described by the Cowboys as a cross between hipster and reggae, and includes tight shirts and “weird” three-quarter pants in all kinds of colours.
“He’s a bit of a character. At training he always used to (fake injury) and say, 'Argh my leg, my leg', and muck around. Then one day he did actually hurt his ankle I think it was, at training. He said that he had hurt it, but we weren’t too sure whether he had or not,” Linnett said.
As much a puzzle to teammates away from the field, Segeyaro has proven an equally hard task for oppositions on the field. Since taking over the chief hooking role from captain Kevin Kingston in Round 9, the PNG native has guided Penrith to an equal league-best win/loss record, dropping just three games along with South Sydney.
“He’s very dangerous out of dummy-half so he’s someone we will have to be on our toes for, but we had a pretty good dress rehearsal last weekend against Robbie Farah. We did a good job on Robbie and we’ll need to do a good job on James again this week,” Cowboys coach Paul Green said earlier in the week.
Given the green light by coach Ivan Cleary, Segeyaro ranks second in the NRL at dummy-half runs, has broken 58 tackles (most by a hooker), and has registered 14 line breaks which is good for seventh in any position.
For the strain he puts on defences out of dummy-half, the 80-minute hooker also has the safest hands of late, not making a single error over the past five games.
“Him and (Matthew) Moylan have really kept their season alive with some of the stuff that they’ve been doing,” Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper said.
“He will relish the chance to come up against us and I think our boys will be up for the challenge. His name gets mentioned even if we’re not playing (the Panthers). All the boys keep talking to him and talking about him and what he gets up to in Sydney and his fashion sense. He will be looking forward to playing us too, but there are so many good players in their team that we have to watch and he’s definitely one of them.”
Segeyaro is still good mates with many at the Cowboys and regularly joins the group at their hotel whenever they visit Sydney. But whatever pleasantries they share will be left at the gate as the 23-year-old looks to reignite on Monday night and lock in a top-four finish for his side come finals time.