Two years ago Jason Taumalolo requested a release from the Cowboys after a well-publicised falling out with coach at the time Neil Henry, but following North Queensland's 17-16 golden point grand final win over the Broncos he has accepted his clean slate at the club.
Six seasons after he debuted as a 17-year-old in the NRL, Taumalolo can now move past the opening stages of his career as a premiership winner as he embarks on his new two-year contract with the club beginning next season.
Convinced he made the right decision to stay at the club under the watchful eye of coach Paul Green, Taumalolo said the 2016 pre-season will offer him the chance to move past his forming years as a footballer and hopefully on to bigger and better things which come with experience.
Dropped to the bench for the Cowboys' final two games of the regular season, perhaps Taumalolo's clean slate began a few weeks ago with the 22-year-old accepting his fate at the time – something he may not have done under previous mentors.
"I've been at the club for a while and for it to finally win its first premiership in some way it pays off. I've been able to do it from all the hard work I've done over the past five or six seasons," Taumalolo gleefully told NRL.com.
"I'll be starting from a clean slate next season. This upcoming pre-season will be one of the most toughest I've ever had because we'll be out to defend our title and to have this ring on my finger it says a lot of I guess my character and the belief I have in this club.
"[Green's] done a lot for the club, mate. Just not for me. He's changed the culture and made everyone accountable for their performances and how we go at training too.
"That's one of the biggest benefits of Greeney. If we aren't up to standard, which he thought that of me when he benched me for the last two games, it then allowed me to slowly find my groove. Come finals I was hitting my straps."
A further sign of Taumalolo's maturity was the fact he stepped up his game in defence, something he's been criticised in the past for.
Averaging 21 tackles per game in 2015 before the grand final, Taumalolo was a rock in defence having produced 30 tackles and only missing one of them among his efforts.
While it appeared it may have affected his stature with the ball in hand, the New Zealand international still managed to be North Queensland's greatest metre-eater having produced 178 metres.
"There was nothing in between us and the Broncos. I think it just came down to who wanted it more and obviously out there I made a lot more tackles than what I should have," Taumalolo said.
"But our game plan was to work hard for one another and never let the guy beside you down. If that was my job then I may as well have spent all of my energy on making tackles and trying to cover the boys' backsides.
"I knew from the first five or 10 minutes that it was going to be one of those games that goes down to the 80th minute. The speed of the game itself surprised us as a team and we knew it'd be physical, but we hung on there and stayed in the fight."
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