James Tamou will wear the badge of chief niggler with pride if it’s going to help NSW defeat Queensland again.
Tamou ignited the first fracas of State of Origin II when he and Queensland fullback Billy Slater squared up, with every player on the field running in as tensions almost boiled over.
Slater took umbrage to being pushed in the face by the Blues prop in the 22nd minute, flinging the ball at him.
“The ref called something back and he kept running,” Tamou recalled.
“I thought I’ll try and get him, get in early and try and get under his skin. Hopefully get him off his game.”
The 113kg weapon would happily do it all again.
“I am willing to do my part for the team,” Tamou said.
“If that’s doing all the niggly stuff, I’m willing to do that.”
Tamou, who paid tribute to back-rower Ryan Hoffman and playmaker Trent Hodkinson for calming some of NSW’s hotheads when they were about to cross the line, tipped the series decider on July 8 could get nasty.
“Shots will be fired early I think, with the animosity going into game three,” he said.
“Someone will say something. It’ll be on.
“You saw tonight how frustrated they were and we were.
“Being up in Brisbane, something is bound to happen.”
Tamou noted in the lead-up to the MCG clash that “Queensland’s level of grubbiness outweighs ours, we need to up the ante”.
The 26-year-old suggested after the 26-18 victory that it wasn’t his side’s main focus, but it was certainly something they excelled at.
“We were just fighting fire with fire,” he said.
“They were a little bit shocked by it, that we didn’t take a step back.
“You saw how frustrated they were.
“We got under their skin their skin. They were really close to throwing a punch there … so we really did a good job.”
Tamou quickly added that the job wasn’t done yet.
But as for Slater, he’s hoping the fullback undergoes surgery and they won’t renew acquaintances at Suncorp Stadium.
“I definitely hope he’s not there … he’s the best in the world,” Tamou said.
“He was obviously injured (at the MCG) … a couple of times he stayed down and I was cheering.
“We took him out of the game … we really gave it to him.”