North Queensland’s smiling assassin Jason Taumalolo will carry a depleted Cowboys NRL forward pack through the final days of the State of Origin period, playmaker Ray Thompson says.
Maroons pair Matt Scott and Gavin Cooper and NSW prop James Tamou will all be in Origin camp while their Cowboys teammates take on the Raiders on Monday night in Canberra.
Bookmakers have North Queensland as rank outsiders for the clash, which they need to win to remain in third spot on the ladder.
But Thompson believes the Cowboys’ non-Origin stars like Taumalolo have done a good job leading them through the representative period so far, and there’s no reason why he can’t do it once more against an in-form Raiders.
“He’s pretty laid back, Jase,” Thompson said.
“During the week, he just goes about his business … you can sense he knows a lot of responsibility is going to be placed on him a little bit, but he doesn’t show it.
“He’s always trying to change his game and evolve and create an offload or a little jink here and there.
“Sometimes, we’re doing tackle drills and it seems like he’s playing with us, which is scary.
“They know they’re up against a good ball-runner – they know the damage he can cause. If they don’t slow his run down or nullify his run, they’re in for a tough night.”
Thompson, who will play at halfback in place of the injured Michael Morgan, says the Cowboys are motivated by those who say they can’t win with an undermanned side.
“The culture in this club is so strong that anyone who puts on that jersey is going to do a job,” he said.
“We have full faith in the bloke next to us.
“Absolutely, we’re going down there to get the two points – it’s definitely not going to be easy, and a lot of people are doubting us, but that adds to the theatre, I think.”