The man who broke Canberra’s hearts in round one may not be there but North Queensland’s “other JT” is planning another match-winning effort against the Raiders in Saturday night’s NRL clash.
Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo has not ruled out a repeat of his remarkable 295m display in their season-opening golden point win over Canberra when he runs out against a giant Raiders pack this weekend.
The 11th-placed Raiders are breathing a little easier ahead of their must-win home match with playmaker Johnathan Thurston (shoulder) sidelined for the rest of the season.
Thurston was again at his inspirational best in round one, even sparking the Cowboys’ match-winning try when his field goal attempt deflected off the crossbar.
However, a player just as dominant in the season opener – Taumalolo – is ready for another head-turning effort on Saturday night.
Dally M Medallist Taumalolo leads the league in run metres, averaging 202m a game, this season and did not rule out something special this weekend.
“I dug deep that game,” he said of his first-round heroics.
“If everyone does their job I won’t have to go that far into my bag of tricks.
“My role is to get the boys going forward. If I can do that and take a step better it will go a long way to us winning on Saturday night.”
Pre-season title favourites Canberra need to win six of their last nine games to stay in the finals mix after three straight losses.
The desperate Raiders pack has been quick to target Taumalolo – not that it fazed the hulking Kiwi international.
“I will go about my business,” he said.
“They have named a pretty big forward pack so it is clear they want to take us on through the middle – that is where the game will be won and lost.
“But at the Cowboys we pride ourselves on our pack.
“Saturday night is going to be a big one for us.”
Taumalolo didn’t feel extra pressure to lift in the absence of the other JT Thurston after the arrival of ex-Penrith playmaker Te Maire Martin.
The Kiwi international will make his Cowboys debut, replacing Thurston by slotting into the halves with Michael Morgan.
“John has only played a handful of games this year for us,” Taumalolo said of extra pressure without Thurston.
“We have played without him for the majority of the year.
“So for Morgo to step up and be a leader like he has would be huge and add to that Te Maire – it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds on Saturday.”