Stat Attack: Taumalolo's output well down at Cowboys
Have the opposition figured out a way to contain Jason Taumalolo in the opening month of the season or has the Tongan international simply taken a lesser role with all North Queensland's stars back on deck?
The Cowboys' Telstra Premiership campaign has been boosted by the return of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and addition of Jordan McLean, who is now out for three months with a foot injury.
Taumalolo was the best forward in the game in 2017 but the Cowboys' sluggish 1-3 start to the season has been matched with a statistical drop in Taumalolo's game.
According to NRL.com Stats, Taumalolo finished the regular season on 4469 run metres at a record average of 203m per game, outdoing his regular season effort of 4002 run metres (167m per game) in 2016.
He also managed on average 80.9 post-contact metres in 2017 – with Bulldogs forward David Klemmer (72.2) and Sharks skipper Paul Gallen (68.1) the next best.
It came as no secret the Cowboys were the best in this department in 2017 on the back of Taumalolo's efforts and thrived off his carries, particularly during his second-half stints.
Taumalolo has slumped to 153.8 metres per game and averaging 58.5 post contact metres in the opening month of the competition - not bad numbers by any means, but not the impact we're used to, either.
It should also be noted the 24-year-old's minutes have dropped too.
In 2017 Taumalolo averaged 63 minutes on the paddock as the Cowboys charged to last year's grand final – a difference of nine minutes per game this season up until he managed 72 in the side's 19-point loss to the Penrith Panthers last Thursday.
Teammate Coen Hess has also played a part with increased time spent on the field and with the ball. The Cowboys back-rower has increased his minutes by six minutes per game and has scored three tries on the back of four line breaks and three offloads to start the season.
With the long-term injury to McLean confirmed by the club on Sunday, a reshuffle is now looming.
Taumalolo took it upon himself to lift an injury-riddled side during the 2017 finals series, so you wouldn't be writing off the Cowboys forward to answer the challenge of being at his best again real soon.