Taumalolo: I can't keep this up for 10 years
Reigning Dally M Player of the Year Jason Taumalolo is attempting to carry the injury-hit Cowboys all the way to September on his rippling shoulders but knows he can't sustain his current workload over a 10-year period.
Taumalolo signed the longest single player contract in the history of professional sport in Australia when he agreed to a 10-year contract extension in March that will keep him at the club through until the end of the 2027 season should he see out the contract in its entirety.
Midway through that season he will turn 34 years of age and while Cronulla's Paul Gallen has just turned 36 and is playing on again next year, Taumalolo has already begun thinking about how his game will evolve in order to stay in the game for another decade.
The 24-year-old Kiwi international hasn't missed a game since Round 4 for the Cowboys and is averaging an extraordinary 202.4 metres per game in 62.3 minutes of game time not to mention the 27.5 tackles he averages in the middle third of the field.
 Telstra Premiership: Jason Taumalolo
All Run Metres, Offloads, Tackle Breaks, Hit Ups.
It's a credit to Paul Green, his coaching staff and the medical team at the Cowboys that Taumalolo has got to Round 25 in relatively good shape and he will be asked for another massive effort this Friday night against the Wests Tigers in Sydney.
Taumalolo acknowledges that with so many senior players out injured that he is one of the players who must elevate his game again, the type of physical demand that he knows won't be sustainable for the life of his contract.
"Obviously I've spoken to a few players and when I'm a lot older I'll have to change the way I play," Taumalolo told NRL.com.
"The body won't be able to take as much of a beating as it is right now and I'll try and add a pass or two to my game and offloads I'm still working on and from that my game will evolve.
"Obviously doing a bit more work than what I did last year and the year before but the body's been fine and managing it week by week. We're getting into the business part of the year and I'll try and push myself more over the next couple of weeks.
"We're obviously trying to fight for a finals spot and with the boys being injured and not too many players that can play long minutes that will be a big part too in how my body pulls up.
"I'm fine at the moment and hopefully the body stays like that for the rest of the year."
Although Gallen edged him for run metres when the two locks met in Townsville last weekend Taumalolo's 4,047m thus far in 2017 is the most in the Telstra Premiership, 137m more than the Sharks skipper in second spot.
New Zealand teammate Te Maire Martin joined Taumalolo in Townsville mid-year following his switch from the Panthers and like the rest of the Cowboys players is happy to have the human wrecking ball on his side.
"That's minimum for him I think, 200 metres," Martin said.
"It's definitely good having him in your team (rather) than against your team. [Andrew] Fifita and [James] Tedesco are hard to tackle, we've got our own player there in Taumaolo.
"I'm stoked he's in my team and not running against me."
With Matt Scott and Gavin Cooper both out and an inexperienced forward pack around them much of the workload and responsibility has fallen to Taumalolo and Scott Bolton, who has battled illness of late and lost five kilograms in the space of a week.
The management of player workload is one of the most important aspects in preparation in the modern game and Taumalolo said the Cowboys' staff are doing everything they can to keep them performing near their peak.
"We haven't really got much time off but the workload at training has definitely decreased and that's definitely helped us, especially for me and 'Boltsy'," Taumalolo said.
"Scott Bolton plays big minutes in the middle too and another one that they are looking after, even though he's got a bit of arthritis because he looks 42 anyway.
"He's obviously been playing sick at the moment and he dropped five kilos the other week and still played and that was his decision. That shows how much character 'Boltsy' has and not taking the easy way out."
As for his own longevity, Taumalolo joked that he was being groomed to take over from Lachlan Coote at fullback – "He runs sideways all the time to get his metres up so he doesn't have to do extras" – before conceding any evolution in his game will likely take place in the centre of the field.
"I can't really look too far ahead but wherever 'Greeny' thinks I'll end up playing is where I'll play," he said.
"For now I'm more than happy to be alongside guys like 'Boltsy', Jakey Granville and Benny Hampton.
"I'll be hanging around in the middle for a while, I don't think too much will change."