Jason Taumalolo will push through the pain barrier and into the history books when he plays his 200th NRL match for the Cowboys against the Roosters on Saturday.
The rampaging lock is still feeling the effects of two broken hands which have limited him to three matches so far this year.
But a monster 71-minute performance in last week's 19-18 win over the Broncos – including a crucial try in the late stages and his season-best 231 metres – indicated he is returning to top form.
He will captain the club in his milestone game as he becomes just the eighth Cowboys player to register a first grade double ton.
"I think it's an extraordinary effort. He's only 27. A lot of those games, he's played big minutes," coach Todd Payten said.
"He's carried the team in many of those games. I think it's a tremendous effort because this is a tough game and he's a tough kid."
Payten started the year by saying he would restrict Taumalolo's game time to about 50 minutes so the prized forward didn't suffer burnout and his defensive movements weren't comprised by fatigue.
He played 51 minutes in round one and 45 in round eight before his ironman display to help the team over the line last Saturday.
Taumalolo's core statistics have generally declined from 2020 – as may be expected with less game time – but against Brisbane he performed above his averages last season in a few key areas.
The Tongan star averaged 18.5 runs per game last year and that number has dropped to 14 in 2021, but he carted the ball up 20 times in the Queensland derby. And he did it with great gusto.
With an average of 11.6 metres per run that night, Taumalolo bettered his 2020 figure (11.2m) and that of his current season (10.5).
His explosive power is back, too. After just one tackle bust in his first two appearances this year, Taumalolo skittled the Broncos to record five. He believes there is more improvement to come.
"I've still got a long way to go. I need to start off by getting healthy first. Hopefully, these hands can recover, get better over the next few weeks and get used to the pain," he said on Tuesday.
"The sooner I do that, the sooner I can have more confidence in the way I play and how I hold myself, I guess."
Payten liked the passion he saw from the 117kg hulk.
"There was a moment in the game when he got a bit riled up and that's only good for us. When he's provoked, I've seen Jase come out swinging and that's what he did," the coach told reporters.
Behind the scenes with JT
Only two points outside the top eight with four wins, the Cowboys are determined to show up for their inspirational leader in a Magic Round clash at Suncorp Stadium, according to Jordan McLean.
"[Taumalolo's] had an impact on everyone around him. He's that kind of player. He's got an aura around him that when you go out and play, you get confidence from him being in your side," McLean said.
"He's done a lot for North Queensland and the Cowboys and it's an opportunity for us to give back to him this weekend.
"Jase being Jase – you can say what you want about him, but in my eyes, he's been the best prop or 'ruckie' in the game for the last however-many years that's he's been playing. He's top shelf."
Payten reflects on derby win and life at the Cowboys
Taumalolo, who moved to Townsville aged 13 and signed with North Queensland on a scholarship, is elated to join Cowboys legends Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen, Matt Scott, Scott Bolton, Gavin Cooper, Aaron Payne and Paul Bowman in the 200 club.
"It means a lot, especially at this club too. I've been here a while and to hit this milestone is nothing I thought would have happened early on in my career. I'm happy about it," he said.
"I was just happy enough to debut and to play NRL. Not many players can do that. It goes by pretty quickly and it's just another game, to be honest ... I'm happy here and I want to be a one-team guy."
And despite debuting in 2010, it seems like he's far from finished.
"He's hopefully got another 100 games in him before he even thinks about retiring," added Payten.
NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day & 3-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets.