Taumalolo not yet ready to lead
He's the undisputed leader of the North Queensland pack with regards to run metres but bullocking back-rower Jason Taumalolo says he is not yet ready to take up a leadership role within the club.
The Cowboys' late-season resurgence has coincided with some devastating performances from Taumalolo who ran for 208 metres last week against the Bulldogs in a 60-minute display and is averaging 181 metres in his past six games.
His power-packed charges often lay the foundation for the likes of Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan to play forward at a retreating defensive line but the 23-year-old is not looking to take on any extra responsibility for the time being.
Cowboys officials confirmed that with so many strong leaders already within the club that they are in no rush to burden the tearaway with any additional responsbility before he is ready, preferring to keep his young mind clear to concentrate on wreaking maximum havoc with his no-holds-barred charges into the defensive line.
Having missed just three games in the past three seasons he has well and truly solidified his place in the team under Paul Green but the Kiwi international told NRL.com that he does not see himself among the side's leadership group.
"I'd love to be a leader at this club down the track but at the moment I see myself trying to cement my position in the team," Taumalolo said.
"I've done that now but I just want to play my role in the team.
"Being a leader at the club is a big ask and I don't think I'm ready for that position yet.
"Maybe give it a few more years and see how we go."
Taumalolo's long-term future at the Cowboys seemed questionable 18 months ago as he weighed up a big money offer from the Warriors that not only promised to fill his purse strings but also tugged at the heart strings.
Born in Auckland before moving to Townsville as a teenager, Taumalolo now calls Townsville home but conceded that the lure of a return to New Zealand was a tempting one.
"They (the Warriors) came to me and we had a meeting here and I was pretty close to going back home," Taumalolo said.
"Going back to New Zealand was pretty tempting with all the family and friends back at home but I just thought I had more to offer the club.
"What the club has done for me the past 18 months has probably been the best thing I've ever done and I just thought that I owed the club my services and stuck around with the club for another two years.
"Having a lot of family and friends since I first moved over here has definitely helped and made everything a lot easier and the transition of living in Townsville a lot better. It's definitely a lot better than what it was a few years back.
"I could honestly definitely call Townsville my first home. I've been here just as long as I have been in New Zealand so I can pretty much call Townsville home."
That will come as good news to Cowboys officials who will soon be faced with further stiff competition from other NRL clubs when Taumalolo comes off contract at the end of the 2017 season.
With uncertainty still on the total salary cap for the 2018 season those negotiating the future contracts of the game's premier players are holding off making commitments until the picture becomes clearer.
A major trump card in securing the services of Taumalolo beyond his eighth season at the club is Cowboys coach Paul Green along with the positive influence of the club's current leaders in Thurston and Matt Scott.
"The last 18 months has been the best I've ever played and he's taken me to the next level in terms of my football and being more consistent week in and week out," Taumalolo said of Green's influence.
"The biggest one for me was he challenged me on effort on effort. I could have a good stint here and there but for the next 10 or 20 minutes I was hanging on for dear life just trying to play out the minutes.
"He wanted me to play as I played for as long as I could and try and back it up effort after effort. Not to shy away from the challenges that were ahead of me and that's what I've done and it's changed me for the better.
"I've matured a lot quicker, learning off guys like 'JT' and Matty Scott. What it is to be a role model on and off the field and just generally a good person.
"Everyone has their hiccups and – cross my fingers – I don't have one anytime soon but everyone here is friendly and I definitely still want to be part of this environment."