Jason Taumalolo insists he can take his offloading game to the next level in 2019 as he and the star-studded North Queensland Cowboys pack prepare to have a target on their heads.
The Tongan international told NRL.com that the addition of Kangaroos lock Josh McGuire and the return to peak fitness of international props Matt Scott and Jordan McLean would result in the Cowboys forwards being highly regarded by opponents despite their disappointing 13th-place finish last season.
Throw in Maroons forwards Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess and Taumalolo said the pack reminded him of the group that won the 2015 grand final.
"Our forward pack is one most teams will look at and envy. We are going to have to work hard and get some chemistry going but I am excited to see how far we will go with this forward pack and where it will take our game," Taumalolo told NRL.com.
"I am excited, just having Josh McGuire join the ranks as another Test forward alongside Jordan McLean and the experienced Matt Scott, a club legend.
A look at the Cowboys 2020 new home
"Most teams are going to think we can shake up the competition with this forward pack."
Taumalolo led the way for the Cowboys with 23 effective offloads in 2018 but in that statistical area his side did not have a player in the top 10 in the NRL.
Manly's Martin Taupau led the way with 71. The Cowboys were also ranked 16th in the NRL in 2018 for metres gained after an offload and it is an area Taumalolo said he wanted to improve.
"I can always get better. I am still working on the offloading side of my game and trying to create some second phase. That is something we have really lacked over the last few years in our team," he said.
"Having said that, we now have Josh McGuire there and he is really good at offloading. With Jordan McLean there, that is going to make it a bit easier to play the sort of footy we want to play.
"So probably just in the offloading department and trying to stay consistent are what I will focus on. You can't afford to drop off. Even though we have a great forward pack I'd still like to take myself to the next level."
Offloading was an area of growth that Taumalolo had targeted at the start of last season but he said that after the Cowboys' slow start to the year the side went into its shell. He suggested that was set to change this season.
"With the year we had, and the injuries we had too, I think you start to play a bit safe and don't chance your arm as much," Taumalolo said.
"With the forward pack we now have we are going to try and open up games a bit more with our offloading and hopefully create some space for our outside guys to do their thing.
"That is one thing that Greeny [coach Paul Green] has really hammered into us, to try and create second phase and look for opportunities to try and play off the back of offloads."