NRL; North Queensland Cowboys Awards Night 2018. Paul Bowman Medal for Cowboy of the Year Ð Jason Taumalolo with partner Liana LaRiva. Picture: Alix Sweeney
NRL; North Queensland Cowboys Awards Night 2018. Paul Bowman Medal for Cowboy of the Year Ð Jason Taumalolo with partner Liana LaRiva. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Emotional Cowboys farewells hit home for Taumalolo

HE may be locked up at the Cowboys for the next nine years, but Jason Taumalolo says the tearful farewells of the club's departing premiership heroes has reminded him of his football mortality.

The Cowboys presentation ball on Thursday night was an emotion-charged affair as stalwarts Johnathan Thurston, Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett and Antonio Winterstein said their goodbyes at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre.

Thurston and Winterstein have both retired, Coote will join English Super League side St Helens and Linnett's future is as yet unclear.

Taumalolo became the first Cowboy to win three straight Paul Bowman medals as the team's player of the year.

He stormed home in the back half of the season to finish on 23 votes, six clear of in-form winger Kyle Feldt and eight ahead of Thurston.

Taumalolo became the first forward in NRL history to run for over 5000 metres last year, and led all forwards with an average of 177 metres per game.

He's contracted until the end of 2017, but the 25-year-old said the touching speeches from his long-time teammates rammed home to cherish every game.

"It's definitely given me a bit of a wake up call," Taumalolo said.

"Watching them say those speeches, they were probably thinking the same thing I was, but before I know it I'll be up there saying my farewell speech.

"I've got a few more years to play obviously, and hopefully I'll make the most of it."

Taumalolo said the Cowboys disappointing season, which yielded just eight wins, and the cavalcade of retiring superstars like Thurston and Billy Slater, was reminder to grab every opportunity.

"You come in young playing NRL and you think you have plenty of years, but it flies by pretty quick and this year's a great example of that," Taumalolo said.

"I grew up watching guys like JT and Billy run around, and now a few of the greats are retiring."

Taumalolo said he is looking forward to being a part of history when Tonga takes on the Kangaroos for the first time in Auckland next month.

"I think it's great we get to play our first game against Australia, I definitely want to be a part of that."

Feldt's high finish in the medal count was deserved after arguably his best season to date, and he was rewarded with the coach's award.

"My fitness was the biggest thing to focus on, and getting more involved in the game," Feldt said.

"I'm pretty happy with what I did in the pre season, something I want to do is to do be more consistent."



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