By Alicia Newton, National Correspondent, NRL.com
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys coach Paul Green has fired a warning to the Parramatta Eels forward pack on a mission to take down Jason Taumalolo: good luck.
The premiership-winning coach recalled a game last season against the Bulldogs where Taumalolo told prop David Klemmer to brace for a belting ahead of the clash at Belmore in Round 25.
After Green offered a quiet word to the Kiwi international about the comments made, Taumalolo hit back with a fired-up response.
"It was on the back page of the paper before we played the Dogs down here who were another physical pack," Green said.
"I said to Jase that if you're going to talk like that you'll have to back it up.
"His response was 'when haven't I?'.
"That should be an interesting battle. They've called him out and think if they stop him then they stop us. I'll always back Jase."
Eels coach Brad Arthur admitted there was no stopping Taumalolo, but should feel confident after containing the 24-year-old during the regular season on both occasions.
The Papakura junior averaged 128 metres against Parramatta this season – well below his season average of 205.
"He's a threat," Arthur said of Taumalolo.
"I don't know if you can stop him. He carries the ball and is aggressive.
"You've just got to limit the damage he can do."
North Queensland's never-say-die attitude on the back of a horrid injury toll has won over many in 2017, and more recently former Knights hooker Danny Buderus who declared the Cowboys have shown the future is bright without Johnathan Thurston.
Buderus said Green's men could do what Newcastle struggled with for years after losing Andrew Johns through injury, with big name players Taumalolo and Michael Morgan stepping up to the plate.
"'Morgo' (Morgan) has taken steps in his development that he needed to take," Green said.
"He's become a representative player in the last few years but he probably hasn't coped as well with that.
"This year he has embraced the challenge with no JT early in the piece and he's really stood up and owned the team.
"I think he's grown as a player and bloke for it."
Regardless of the result on Saturday night, Green considers the season a satisfying effort and believes after losing five of their last six games heading into the finals, anything further than a semi-final is a bonus.
"As big a loss as JT is, I had plenty of faith and belief. More importantly the players have the belief," he said.
"We've always maintained whoever steps into the jersey has a job to do and if he does it to the best of his ability the result looks after itself.
"It's satisfying as a coach and it's been a rewarding year regardless of the outcome on the weekend.
"It will be rewarding for different reasons. At the same token there is opportunity in front of us too.
"We could play our best footy and not win on Saturday night and while we would be disappointed with that, would be satisfied given we gave it our best shot.
"I think we've got the game that can worry Parramatta."
First published on NRL.com.