Taumalolo defying his own expectations
A three-year plan to mould Jason Taumalolo into the most damaging forward in the game has come to fruition and the man himself concedes he is producing physical performances he never believed were possible.
After setting a new mark for the most metres recorded by a forward in North Queensland's Round 1 win over the Raiders, the reigning Dally M medallist provided the impetus for Johnathan Thurston's match-winning golden point field goal against the Broncos on Friday night.
Having charged down an attempt at field goal by Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford in the first period of extra-time Taumalolo delivered two timely runs three minutes into the second stanza that put Thurston in position to kick the winning field goal.
The 23-year-old played 81 of the 88 minutes, made 20 runs for 231 metres along with 38 tackles and, if anything, is looking even better than the player who along with Cooper Cronk was judged the best in the game last season.
It's a far cry from the young man whose potential could only be showcased in 15-minute bursts with Taumalolo revealing that the player he is now has been three years in the making.
"The first thing 'Greeny' (Cowboys coach Paul Green) wanted me to do was work on my effort on effort," Taumalolo said.
"We did a lot of conditioning and all he kept saying to me was to keep going and to keep backing it up. Even though I'm tired that's what he wanted me to do and to give it two or three years and I think it's paying off.
"Greeny has been talking to me about that for the past three years and I've just been trying to work on that. I've come a long way.
"He's pushed me both mentally and physically and obviously having a tough pre-season helps that and makes it easier when you get uncomfortable. For too long if you get comfortable being uncomfortable when there are moments like tonight when we're under the pump a few times I just knew what the team needed at the time and I just stood up and played footy.
"There's been a few times he's pushed me to my limits but as always, I'm just hanging tough and just trying to build myself mentally to be ready for moments like tonight."
Prior to Paul Green's arrival at Townsville at the end of 2013 Taumalolo was in and out of the first grade team as coach Neil Henry struggled to bring out his enormous potential on a regular basis.
 Telstra Premiership: Jason Taumalolo
Minutes Played, All Run Metres, Tackles, Tackle Breaks.
But beyond the physical transformation to build an engine capable of producing two powerful charges in the space of three tackles under incredible fatigue in the 87th minute of a game, Green puts Taumalolo's progression down to his contribution to the culture of the team.
"It's not just the training you do, it's also him buying into a bit of the culture of what we're all about and he's definitely done that," Green said.
"Where he is at the moment, being able to do what he does is part of his development.
"He's an unbelievable athlete. His effort in the first half, second week in a row played the 40 straight in the middle is remarkable. And to get the quality of work that he can maintain is impressive."
Talk has already begun that Taumalolo could join Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Johns as the only players in the NRL era to win back-to-back Dally M medals but he doesn't believe the tag of being the best player in the game has added any pressure in 2017.
"Not at all," Taumalolo said. “Coming into this season, everyone starts at square one. That’s the mentality I have."
"There is a lot of expectation on myself with the Dally M title around. I have put that aside. I start square with everyone now.
"There is a lot of talk about going back-to-back Dally Ms, I definitely don’t have that mentality yet.
"My priority is to try and play the best footy I can every week and be more consistent with the Cowboys."