North Queensland's secret weapon
Another week, another individual success story for North Queensland.
He didn't make any headlines but young forward John Asiata played a career-best game against Manly on Monday night, finishing the 80 minutes as statistically the best running forward in the game.
With the final score reading 30-12 he was not the difference, but teammate Michael Morgan and assistant coach David Furner certainly did not overlook his 162-metre, 19-tackle performance.
Asiata normally hides in good friend Jason Taumalolo's shadow, but it was North Queensland's answer to the hulk who took a back seat on Monday as the interchange forward eclipsed 'JT3' for playing time.
Such was the vigour of Asiata's running game, Fox Sports commentator Warren Smith actually mistook him for Taumalolo.
"He was very strong [against Manly]. His attacking game... he is probably one of the better forwards that has got a really good set of hands on him," Furner said.
"One of the areas that Johnny's been focusing on is defence and if you look at that part of the game I thought it was one of his better defensive performances."
Added Morgan: "When we need him to go forward, he can go forward and make metres for us, and if we need to shift the ball he's able to do that and that's one thing he has improved on."
Originally a playmaker, Asiata was at one point running around in the No.6 jersey for Parramatta in the Harold Matthews Cup, sending high balls for his winger and now Cowboys second-rower Kelepi Tanginoa; the stocky Asiata even tipped the scales at a higher playing weight in the halves in 2009.
But times have changed for the 22-year-old who Morgan says is slowly changing mentalities from that of a half to a forward.
"He's very skilful. He knows when to run and when to pass – and so his decisions have been a lot better and he's more consistent with it.
"I think deep down he wants to play five-eighth so he's after my spot, but seriously he's going really well and it's good to see that he's developed.
"He came through the under-20s system with 'Greeny' [coach Paul Green] at the Roosters and got his chance last year and he's come on again better this year."
Always modest, Asiata says the goal for the rest of the year is just to close the gap between his best performances and his worst.
"I just want to play football more consistently. I've been lucky this year to get my crack in Round 4 and since we started winning I have actually kept my spot in the team. I guess if we keep winning it will probably be a good thing (for my chances) but I just have to do my job," he said.