In James Tamou’s second campaign at North Queensland in 2009, the club only avoided the wooden spoon due to Melbourne being stripped of its points by the NRL due to salary cap breaches.
Seven seasons later, he leaves a premiership-winner and with the club established as one of the real powerhouses of the NRL.
“I’ll definitely be proud of what we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come,” he said.
“The premiership is something to be proud of.”
The NSW and Kangaroos prop will depart the club for Penrith following the Cowboys’ 32-20 preliminary final loss to Cronulla at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
While most clubs have their playing stocks raided after a grand final success, Tamou at this stage remains their only premiership winner to announce he’s leaving the club since last year’s decider.
And with the club having reached the preliminary finals in the past two under-20s competitions, he can’t see any reasons why the Cowboys wouldn’t maintain their form in the NRL.
“They’ve got some players of the future,” Tamou said.
“Obviously big Jase (Taumalolo) had a heck of a year. Coen Hess coming through and Kayln Ponga as well.
“If they keep them together with the older guys they’ll learn a lot and have a good future.”
Tamou’s influence at the club won’t have ended with Friday night though.
He’s formed a close bond with a number of the club’s younger players, most notably human wrecking-ball Taumalolo.
“He’s been there from day dot,” Taumalolo said.
“Even off the field, we used to hang out a lot. I was there when he first met his partner and had kids. To see him progress to the man he is now has been a credit to himself.
“There’s a few like Patty Kaufusi and Josh Asiata playing through the middle that Jimmy’s obviously helped out there in mentoring them.
“It will be a big loss for those young guys coming through for losing a mentor like Jimmy but the boys can only learn for themselves now and get better.”