Jason Taumalolo, the joint 2016 Dally M medallist, has been recognised at club level for his outstanding form, with the hard-running lock collecting two major player awards at the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ annual end-of-season Presentation Ball tonight.
Just over a week after being named the game’s best player – alongside Melbourne Storm playmaker Cooper Cronk – 23-year-old wrecking ball Taumalolo was awarded the Paul Bowman Medal, given annually to the Cowboy of the Year, at a glittering event at the Townsville Entertainment & Convention Centre.
Leading the NRL in running metres in 2016, Taumalolo produced a devastating 2016 campaign, playing in all 27 Cowboys games to help his team to the preliminary final.
He comfortably led the voting all evening, finishing on 32 points ahead of four-time Paul Bowman medallist and Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston (22) and forwards leader Matt Scott (17).
Points for the medal are awarded on a 3-2-1 basis by Cowboys’ coaching staff.
In front of over 700 VIPs and special guests, Taumalolo was also recognised by his peers in winning the 2016 Players’ Player of the Year award.
He was a runaway winner in voting for the Anthony Rock Memorial Award, polling 42 votes ahead of Lachlan Coote (15), Scott Bolton and Ethan Lowe (both 11).
During his breakout season – his sixth at the top level – Taumalolo passed the 100-game mark for the club, scored six tries, averaged over 164m across his 27 games, and effected 24 tackles per match.
He also represented New Zealand in the May Test against Australia, and will line up for the Kiwis in their end-of-season re-match against the Kangaroos in Perth on 15 October and in the Four Nations tournament in England.
As part of his prize for being named Cowboy of the Year, Taumalolo gets use of a brand new Toyota SR5 HiLux dual cab, thanks to naming rights sponsors Toyota and the North Queensland Toyota Dealers.
Earlier in the evening, the club acknowledged player milestones achieved throughout the year – including Johnathan Thurston (250 club games), James Tamou, Gavin Cooper (both 150 club games), Ray Thompson, Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo (100 club games) – as well as announcing a series of player awards.
NYC Player of the Year: Brandon Smith
Tough-as-nails Cowboys hooker Brandon Smith, 20, enjoyed a stellar season in his second year as part of the Cowboys’ under-20s program.
The Junior Kiwi played in 25 of the team’s 27 games, scoring 18 tries and finishing the year with the second most line breaks (26) in the NYC.
Known for his strength and hard running, Smith established himself as an NRL player of the future and leaves the club to take up a three-year deal with the Melbourne Storm in their NRL squad.
Most Improved Cowboy: Ethan Lowe
After a breakout 2015, no-nonsense back-rower Ethan Lowe was looking to become a true mainstay of the team’s engine room in 2016.
From being named in the Maroons’ Emerging Origin squad in January, Lowe’s star continued to rise.
He played in 25 of the Cowboys’ 27 games in 2016, scoring nine tries and being invited into the Maroons camp for Origin II.
Noted for his strong running and high work rate, he got better as the season became tougher.
Rookie of the Year: Javid Bowen
Having been part of the Cowboys’ NRL squad since 2015, and plying his trade in the NYC before that, Javid Bowen is not new to the club, but 2016 was the 23-year-old’s standout year.
He made his NRL debut in the Cowboys’ 36-0 Round 5 win over the Dragons, scoring a try in front of his home fans.
The talented outside back went on to play 10 games in 2016, scoring four tries.
Club Person of the Year: John Asiata
Having played an integral role on-field in appearing 19 times for the Cowboys in season 2016, John Asiata was also active off-field for the club.
Aside from promoting the club’s existing community programs, Asiata also spent countless hours of his own time working with various community groups and within his own church.
He supported the World’s Greatest Shave and was also a homestay parent for the club’s under-20s team.
This selflessness and community-minded attitude led to Asiata being chosen as the club’s nominee for the Ken Stephen Medal, awarded to an NRL player who goes above and beyond the call of duty with their community work.
Townsville Bulletin Fans’ Choice Player of the Year: Michael Morgan
Popular Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan proved a hit with fans to collect the popularly voted award, run by the Cowboys’ print media partner, the Townsville Bulletin.