His accent may say otherwise, but Australia front-rower James Tamou says he feels more comfortable than ever in a Kangaroos jumper after being named players’ player by his teammates in Saturday’s 18-10 win over his native New Zealand.
Tamou was outstanding against the Kiwis in a high-quality Test at Townsville’s Dairy Farmers Stadium, scoring a try in the first half, with a sidestep worthy of a halfback.
His partner in crime and North Queensland teammate Matt Scott was named man of the match, clocking up 180 metres with the pair laying the platform for a hard-fought victory against an impressive Kiwi side.
“The two Cowboys props played very well and I was very happy with them,” Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens said.
Tamou caused huge uproar across the Tasman when he elected to play for Australia earlier this season, and the 23-year-old revealed he felt much more comfortable second time around across being hounded by the media in New Zealand following his controversial decision.
“There was too much on my mind last time on my debut, but this time I was able to relax and play some good footy,” Tamou said.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a year. I am looking forward to a rest. But this has been beyond anything I could have hope for.”
Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney and Benji Marshall were keen to draw a line underneath the Tamou saga after the game, and the giant front-rower said there was no sledging on the field.
He even briefly donned a black jersey after the game when he swapped shirts with life-long friend Ben Matulino.
“Benny is a good friend, we grew up together and he wanted to swap jerseys and just out of respect for him I swapped, and then put it on,” Tamou said.
“Everyone was cool. I just didn’t want to show off my Mad Monday guts, which is why I put it on. But the Aussie one fits better.”
Tamou’s reaction to scoring a try was one of exuberance and he admitted he didn’t quite know what to do when he crossed the line, in front of a capacity crowd at his home ground.
“I felt in that situation maybe I should run down to the other end of the ground,.I didn’t know what to do, I don’t score many,” he said.
“But it’s quite overwhelming. To win the award from my peers in the team is very special. But I am looking forward to the season being over now for a rest.”
Marshall rolled his eyes when asked about Tamou’s contribution but said the performance of Sam Kasiano showed there is plenty more top-class Kiwi props.
“We’re far past that decision now,” Marshall said.
“Big Sammy made his decision to play for us and that’s all that matters.”
Sheens also paid tribute to skipper Cameron Smith, who scored a try and became only the third man to skipper three successful sides in a single season after leading Melbourne to the NRL premiership and Queensland to a seventh straight State of Origin series.
“He’s a fair player .. if I had a club, I would want him to play for me,” said Sheens pointedly, with his future at the Wests Tigers to be decided this month.