Tamou tips McGuire for Test spot
He is a Test incumbent in far better form than when he was last picked to play for Australia but Cowboys prop James Tamou believes Broncos forward Josh McGuire has the edge on him for selection for the Kangaroos' Test against the Kiwis in Newcastle on May 6.
Having run for more than 200 metres against the Roosters the week prior, Tamou and fellow Test prop Matt Scott were both shaded by McGuire in Friday's epic grand final rematch with the Broncos' hard man coming up with the crucial 18-metre run that set his team up to kick the winning field goal in extra time.
Returning from an Achilles tendon injury that limited him to just 13 games last season McGuire has shown no ill effects in the opening month, averaging 154 metres and 36 tackles from 55 minutes of game-time to lead the way up front for Brisbane.
Having made his Origin debut for Queensland last year the next step for McGuire – already a Samoan international – is to represent Australia, a feat Tamou believes is well within his reach.
Desperately keen to hang onto the Kangaroos jersey that he has worn 11 times to date, Tamou told NRL.com there was no denying McGuire's claim for a call-up.
"I've definitely thought about it and definitely want that jersey. It's hard answering that question coming off a loss," Tamou said of his selection prospects.
"I thought Josh McGuire played really well and if he keeps that up I think he'll be in there. I'm a big fan of how he plays.
"Definitely keen for that jersey and I think if I just have to up my form a little bit if I was to put my hand up to be selected."
Tamou's start to 2016 is a far cry from that of 12 months ago when he was coming off serious neck surgery that he conceded made him question his future in the game.
He started from the bench in the first two games of 2015 as he sought desperately to regain confidence in his own body and said there were a number of occasions he doubted whether he could ever get back to his blockbusting best.
"It was tough. I was ringing up our physiotherapist saying, 'I don't know how I'm going to go with rugby league again,'" said Tamou, whose partner Brittney McGlone is expecting their third child in three years.
"I was 104-105 kilos walking back into the gym, just a walking stick, and the boys probably thought I looked sick, that's how much weight fell off. I had to re-teach every muscle again because I was out for six weeks just straight on the bed, couldn't move or anything.
"It would hurt anyone, anyone who goes through that, it's tough to come back – especially in rugby league. It's a tough game so each game last year when I was starting off the bench my confidence grew in my body being able to take the hard hits.
"That's where my confidence grew throughout last year and hopefully on to this year, where I can take the hard hits and the hard running and be confident in my body and know that I'll be fine.
"This year I haven't had a worry at all. I had a good pre-season, obviously it was a short pre-season, and pretty confident with the whole neck situation."