Forwards rarely win the Dally M Medal.
Then again, forwards like Jason Taumalolo rarely emerge.
In fact, the NRL has never seen anything quite like Taumalolo’s 2016 season before.
Brisbane certainly didn’t know what hit them – the rampaging lock producing one of the greatest solo displays by a forward in NRL history against an unsuspecting Broncos.
The Kiwi Test star ran the ball a staggering 263m to inspire North Queensland’s 26-20 extra-time semi-final win over Brisbane last Friday night.
It was the most metres gained by a forward in a final since Fox Sports started keeping records in 2002.
“I can’t remember another display from a forward like that, full stop – I just can’t think of one,” former Cowboys centre Josh Hannay tells AAP.
“There were a number of Origin and international forwards on that field and he made everyone else look second rate.
“You consider the calibre of the Broncos forwards but they looked helpless against him, they couldn’t stop him.
“That says a lot about how good he was.”
Yet the 113kg, 190cm human wrecking ball may have just scratched the surface.
Some Cowboys officials admit they still don’t know what the 23-year-old is truly capable of.
Taumalolo certainly sounded stumped when asked if he could get better in Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against Cronulla at Allianz Stadium.
“I have no idea to be honest,” he said.
“I just need to get mentally right again and I can back up against the Sharks.”
Taumalolo has been exceeding expectations for some time now.
He was first sighted by North Queensland at 13.
Surprisingly he wasn’t their prime scouting target.
The Cowboys had identified Wayne Ulugia playing for the Papakura Sea Eagles in Auckland’s south in 2007.
Ulugia arrived at North Queensland but got homesick.
His parents then made a bold call.
They raised money and organised a trial for some of his Sea Eagles teammates in Townsville.
Taumalolo was among them.
History shows Taumalolo made his NRL debut at 17, becoming the Cowboys’ youngest player.
Ulugia didn’t make it, cut for disciplinary reasons in 2014.
Two years later Taumalolo has announced himself as an NRL prime force.
He is tipped to become just the fifth forward and first in 10 years to claim the Dally M Medal.
He has already been named the Rugby League Players’ Association Players Champion, snapping teammate Johnathan Thurston’s three-year reign.
Not that his journey has been smooth by any stretch.
Taumalolo made his NRL debut as a schoolboy in 2010.
Then came the ‘next Sonny Bill Williams’ tag.
It weighed heavily on him.
In and out of first grade, Taumalolo became disillusioned.
Enter new Cowboys coach Paul Green in 2014.
Taumalolo was installed as lock, no longer an edge runner – and no longer compared to SBW.
This year Taumalolo really stepped up.
He averaged 166m a game, more than any other forward.
Yet Taumalolo – a self confessed class clown at school – still had some off-field rough edges to smooth out.
This month he was among five Cowboys charged with wilful damage after allegedly throwing eggs at passing cars in Townsville.
It occurred days before North Queensland’s opening finals game in Melbourne and barely 48 hours after Taumalolo represented the Cowboys at the official NRL finals launch.
New Zealand league great Gary Freeman believes Taumalolo finally knows now what others see in him after witnessing his inspirational semi-final display.
“One of the biggest reasons why he did what he did was not to make up for that (wilful damage charge),” Freeman told AAP.
“It was because his peers picked him as the best.
“It was like he came out and said ‘you have chosen the right man’.
“It was a display that said ‘I will show them why they picked me’.
“He gets it now.”
Hannay believes the proof is in how he backs up against Cronulla – and most notably Sharks lock Paul Gallen.
“Taumalolo is a dynamic runner – he’s their X factor,” Hannay said.
“Paul is in his later years, he’s more of a grinding type player.
“But it will be a great clash.
“I would like to see Taumalolo back up and terrorise a team through the middle again like last week.”
Now that would be rare.