Taumalolo to take it to another level
Devastating Cowboys lock – and Dally M hopeful – Jason Taumalolo has an ominous message for league fans – he wants to add passing and offloading skills to his game over the off-season in order to become a more complete player.
A short-priced favourite for Dally M lock of the year and a chance of the overall gong at Wednesday night's end-of-season awards, Taumalolo hit career highs in 2016.
His brutal outing against Brisbane in the semi final – 265 metres and 11 tackle busts in a sweltering 90-minute epic – was arguably the individual performance of the year from a forward.
Playing all 27 games for his club, Taumalolo charged to 4,455 running metres for the year – the most of any player in any position at any club in 2016 – at 165 per game.
But as brutal as the Kiwi international was this year, he was fairly one dimensional – no try assists, no line break assists and just nine offloads all year. Compare those numbers to some of the other top No.13s this year: Paul Gallen had 31 offloads, two try assists and six line break assists; Corey Parker had 31 offloads, two line break assists and a try assist; Sam Burgess 49 offloads and five try assists.
Speaking after his side's disappointing 32-20 preliminary final loss to the Sharks, Taumalolo rejected suggestions he has shown his best form this year.
"I think I've got a few more areas I can fix throughout the off-season and pre-season," he said.
"This year I've taken a huge step forward where I'm progressing and where I want to be as a footy player.
"I think I can only go back in the pre-season and work hard on what I've been doing and work hard on what needs fixing and come back [next year] a lot better than where I've been this year."
Taumalolo said some of the other ball-playing forwards within the Cowboys system have highlighted to him the value of forwards being able to promote the ball.
"Obviously not one to pass the ball. That area and a bit of second phase wouldn't hurt," Taumalolo said.
"Trying to add a few new things to my game would be good. Hopefully it will give us a different dimension in attack and something we can pick up on next year.
"Part of being the best in the comp is trying to learn new things along the way and the journey throughout your career. It's something I want to do and hopefully I pick up a few skill sets over the off-season and come back a better player next year."
Before he worries about that, the incumbent New Zealand lock has an end-of-year Four Nations tournament in the UK to worry about – but an ongoing knee issue means his participation is far from guaranteed.
Impending club medical assessments for a host of eligible Four Nations candidates will reveal how the likes of himself, props Matt Scott and James Tamou and halves Michael Morgan and Johnathan Thurston are placed.
A new Test coach in David Kidwell – who has taken over from incoming Warriors coach and departed Kiwis coach Steve Kearney – means Taumalolo isn't taking anything for granted at the selection table either.
"Obviously if I pass my medical I will put my hand up to play if I make the team," he said.
"I've had the same knee problem from last year and it was kind of bothering me towards the back end of the year.
"Apart from that I have been trying to keep myself as nice and healthy and fit throughout the year. The high performance unit we have at the club have done an amazing job at that."
The issue is an ongoing medial ligament problem, according to Taumalolo.
"After you've done your medial about three times it starts to get bit dodgy so obviously it's taken its toll," he said.
"I can only manage it better. Obviously with myself getting older and playing in the middle it will be pretty hard work. So I trust my coaching staff take care of me throughout the year."
First published on NRL.com.