Tamou leaves with Cowboys' blessing
Blues prop James Tamou says it was an emotional conversation letting his club the Cowboys know he wouldn't be around in 2017 but has praised the professionalism with which the club has handled everything.
Tamou also praised Penrith, the club he is rumoured to be joining, but refused to confirm his 2017 destination.
North Queensland has done a remarkable job of retaining the bulk of its premiership-winning group with a number of key players extending their time at the club since their maiden premiership win last October.
When Tamou recently let the club know his future lay in Sydney he became the first high-profile departure and, speaking from Blues' camp in Coffs Harbour, he admitted it was tough telling the club his eight-year stay would finish at the end of 2016.
"There is a bit of relief there to the point I've told the Cowboys, the team, that I won't be there [next year]. That was playing on my mind a bit how they would react. When I did tell them they were nothing but supportive – put their hands out and shook mine," he said.
"I just said 'We've still got a job to do this year'."
He confessed to getting "a bit of a tickle in my throat" when it came time to break the news.
"I was thinking 'wrap it up before you start crying'. But they were really good. If anything they were really excited for me and wishing me well," he said.
"Hopefully [we can] go out this year with a bang."
Tamou remains hopeful an official announcement will be made soon.
"Now that I've told the boys I won't be there I just want to get it done now so I can concentrate on footy," he added.
Tamou has been widely tipped to join the Panthers in 2016 and while he wasn't letting anything official slip he did have some praise for what he said is a club on the rise.
"Wherever it may be. I'm pretty good mates with everyone here [in Blues camp] so wherever I am I don't think it will be too much trouble," he said when asked if he might be getting more closely acquainted with some future clubmates this week," he said.
He confirmed the western Sydney club had expressed an interest.
"They (Penrith's NSW representatives) did ask me the first camp and I just said 'Look I know they're interested' and I still hope so. Penrith is one of the up-and-coming teams with their young stars... and forward pack there," Tamou said.
"It would be good to be running around with the future players they have there... unreal.
"It's not just [the forwards] it's Te Maire Martin, [Nathan] Cleary and their backs. Obviously their forward pack but their backs have got some speed out there so it's very exciting where they're headed and it'd be awesome to be a part of that.
"They are definitely a team on the up."