Jason Taumalolo will finish his career at the North Queensland Cowboys and has urged the club to back a winning trifecta by locking up coach Paul Green and five-eighth Michael Morgan long term.
The powerhouse forward, who last year signed a 10-year deal with North Queensland, returned to training after his stunning World Cup campaign for Tonga on Monday.
Green and Morgan are off contract at the end of 2018 and Taumalolo wants them by his side for the rest of his Telstra Premiership career.
“They are a crucial part to us as a team,” Taumalolo said.
“Greeny has been a great coach since he has been head coach for the Cowboys, and Morgo is a local boy who has grown up to be the player he is today.
“Words can’t describe how important they are to the future of this club.
“I’d like to spend the rest of my career playing alongside Morgo and hopefully the Cowboys lock him up long term.
“When Greeny first came to the club he had plans for me and how he wanted to change the way I played, and it worked.
“He is one of the many reasons why I wanted to stay here at the club and sign a long-term deal. So long as Greeny is around, I’ll be happy.”
Morgan has just returned from his Christmas break and his management is set to ramp up talks with the Cowboys in coming weeks.
The World Cup-winning star is keen to stay and the Cowboys intend to keep him.
To understand why Taumalolo’s words have deeper meaning you need to delve into the past and one of the turning points in his and the Cowboys’ history.
In mid-2015 Taumalolo had a two-year $2 million deal on the table to join the New Zealand Warriors sitting right in front of him.
He had a pen in his hand and was ready to sign his name, but decided to sleep on it.
It was a night of restless tossing and turning and no rest.
The next day he told his management he was staying at the Cowboys for half as much.
“I just love the Cowboys culture and what Greeny had planned for me,” he told Rugby League Week magazine about that pivotal moment while celebrating in the dressing sheds after the 2015 grand final win.
“So the next day I decided to re-sign with the Cowboys. I gave up close to a million dollars but now I have got this ring on my finger.”
When Taumalolo won the magazine’s player of the year in 2016 all he wanted to talk about was Green’s arrival and how it changed his life.
“Before Greeny came we had a different coaching staff and I wasn’t playing much first-grade footy,” he said.
“I was barely talking to the coaches at the time but when Greeny came in 2014 he said he was really excited to be working with me and I could become one of the best players in the competition if I worked hard.
“He had faith me and as a young player coming through the ranks that’s what I needed.”
Morgan and Taumalolo’s careers have had parallels in certain key respects as well. Good mates who came through the Cowboys under 20s, they were in the wilderness in 2013 when they starred in the Queensland Cup grand final for Mackay
Their rise and rise since Green’s arrival the following year has led them to the heights of premiership success in 2015, representative honours and financial rewards beyond their wildest dreams.
Meanwhile, Taumalolo was also pleased to see a less-familiar face at Cowboys training - off-season recruit Jordan McLean.
“He is huge,” Taumalolo said.
“I used to play against him in the 20s, and I played against him in first grade, and it seems like he is getting bigger every year.
“He has got a great engine and a lot of second phase on him, so he will be a great asset to the team.”