Taumalolo on Warriors denial

As Jason Taumalolo prepares to line up against the Warriors this weekend, the Cowboys' Kiwi wrecking ball has revealed just how close he came to joining the New Zealand club from next season.

The Warriors have long been keen to lure Taumalolo back to his homeland.

In 2015, they offered him a $2 million contract only for the 24-year-old lock to re-sign with North Queensland for less money, that ultimately paid off for Taumalolo as the Cowboys won their maiden premiership that season.

Earlier this year, the Warriors again came calling with another hugely tempting offer which, combined with the chance to be around family, almost had Taumalolo packing his bags.

But having developed him into the best forward in the NRL, the Cowboys were desperate to retain the 2016 Dally M Medal co-winner and countered with an unprecedented 10-year deal worth a reported $10 million.

Taumalolo admitted that the long-term security was too good to refuse but added that the Cowboys' culture and his desire to finish his career as a one-club man also played a big part in his decision to turn down the Warriors.

"They (Warriors) wanted me to come home," Taumalolo told Australia's Courier Mail.

"A lot of my family is based in New Zealand and I was born there. At the time it was a tough decision to make.

"Obviously money came into play. We all know footy players only play for so long in their careers. Money eventually comes into play.

"But when it came down to it, I thought I could be better with my footy and play consistently and I saw where the club was heading over here, I realised I definitely enjoy where I was and how I was playing footy.

"I didn't want to change that."

Born in Auckland and with 10 tests for the Kiwis, the idea of returning to his roots appealed to Taumalolo.

But he also classifies Townsville as home, having moved to the city with his parents at age 14 when he first linked up with the Cowboys. 

Ten years on, Taumalolo now finds himself as one of their most important players, particularly with halfback Johnathan Thurston and prop Matt Scott nursing season-ending injuries.

The leading metre-eater in the NRL, Taumalolo has averaged more than 200m per game as the Cowboys have shrugged off those losses to sit in sixth place, well in the hunt for the top four.

But in an ominous sign for the Warriors, Taumalolo is hoping to go up another gear for the run home to the finals.

"I've been a bit dusty after having a week off but the body is ready for the last part of the season," he told the Courier Mail.

"I don't feel too much pressure; it's more I've got to step up a bit. I've got guys around me who help me. It's great to have guys like that play around me and make my job easier."

The Cowboys host the 11th-placed Warriors in Townsville on Saturday night.



Photo by: IAN HITCHCOCK/GETTY IMAGES (Jason Taumalolo signed a 10-year deal with the Cowboys earlier this year worth a reported $10 million).