Dumped Kangaroos forward and Penrith newcomer James Tamou is on a mission to prove his critics wrong, according to teammate Trent Merrin.
After moving from North Queensland in the summer, Tamou made an unexpected early start to the pre-season when he was overlooked for Australia’s Four Nations tournament late last year.
Merrin, who himself had to fight back from his NSW State of Origin axing to reclaim his green and gold jumper, believes the big-money recruit will be out to show he’s not on the decline.
Tamou impressed in his first outing with the Panthers at the Auckland Nines, scoring two individual tries with surprising speed and footwork.
“As a player missing out on things, you do hold it closer to your heart. You always want to prove people wrong, and that’s what he’s doing right now,” Merrin said.
“He’s looking incredible. It just goes to show in that Nines game he scored a few tries, showed a bit of his talent. He’s got some points to prove.”
Merrin had been a regular in the Blues team since his debut in the 2011 series- opener, missing just two games out of a possible 15 matches before his omission last year.
However he was rewarded with a Kangaroos jumper following some strong late form in the Panthers’ fairytale run to the second week of the finals.
He says representative snubs are initially tough to take, but observed Tamou had already put his dumping behind him by quickly becoming a leader at the foot of the mountains.
“But you’ve got to take some ownership, have a good, hard look at yourself. The only way you get through it is by working hard, getting the basics right, and putting the team first,” he said.
“He’s been incredible so far for us. The credentials he brings to the club, the maturity, especially for such a young team, we’ve got some young front-rowers in RCG (Reagan Campbell-Gillard) and Leilani Latu.
“For them to look up to someone like James Tamou, how he plays the game, the things he’s done in the game, it’s great for the club.”