James Tamou found himself in such a deep mental hole halfway through the NRL season he feared his career was over.
Trying to build himself back up after off-season neck surgery, a poor performance in the NSW State of Origin side’s series loss and considering a mid-season switch to Canberra left Tamou in a mental bind.
Sitting in the North Queensland dressing sheds after Sunday’s grand final win over Brisbane and with a premiership ring on his finger, Tamou barely recognised the man he was six months ago.
Reflecting on the rollercoaster ride that had been his 2015 season, Tamou revealed he believed his career was on a steady decline and was questioning whether he still had what it took.
“At the start of the year I obviously wasn’t doing too well. I thought my career could have been over,” Tamou said.
“After the Origin series, after that game, my attitude was non-existent.
“It was tough to wake up in the morning and go to training after that last Origin game.
“From there to now, it’s unreal.”
Tamou’s form was scratchy in the opening rounds as he struggled for confidence in his neck which was surgically repaired to fix nerve damage during the off-season.
Midway through the year he was weighing up an offer to join Canberra for family reasons and could have been watching Sunday’s grand final from the couch in the nation’s capital.
He said he was pulled out of his hole by the birth of his son Barclay in May which he says helped to give him perspective.
“It was a bit of an escape from footy. Just to play with them,” he says of his children Brooklyn, 2, and Barclay, four months.
“I think that just saved me there. I think if it was too much footy, it would have done my head in.
“I remember being all about football and being about myself. But now having a family, you have them to think about.
“It takes your mind off it when you’re not doing so good.”