BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Forget the 345 run metres, the 26 carries or the 120 post-contact metres. Disregard his on-field presence or his ability to draw three and four defenders out of the line at a time. All in a night’s work for the irrepressible Jason Taumalolo.
How ironic that one of the best displays from a forward in the modern era was played in an empty stadium.
On Thursday evening at a locked down ANZ Stadium, Taumalolo toyed with the Canterbury Bulldogs like a lion with a mouse. By the end of the night, the Bulldogs were scrambling to get out of the Olympic precinct.
Taumalolo just got better as the night wore on.
He is a truly a freak.
The perfect mix of power, size and skill.
And he’s tough – really tough.
But put the unbelievable stats to one side a for a second.
There was a moment just before half-time that epitomised the man.
With just four minutes left in the half and roughly 180-odd metres to his name already, Taumalolo took the ball to the Bulldogs defensive line in front of the posts at the northern end. The big fella engaged, stopped, propped and hit teammate Francis Molo with a no-look pass. Molo spun in the tackle and got his arms free.
Most middle forwards would have clocked out at this point.
The Dally M winner’s eyes started to roll. He doubled up and got back to the footy, took the offload and ran over two hapless Bulldogs to score.
This is the work of an all-time great.
The extra play mere mortals would have never attempted.
Matthew Johns – a student of the game – said last year Taumalolo will be an Immortal one day.
“I’ll tell you what he’s still getting better too, that’s the thing,” Johns said on his podcast.
“Let’s have a look at what he’s done in the international game in the last two years, just totally revitalised it.
“For me Taumalolo is changing the game, he really is changing the game.”
That’s what an Immortal does.
They change the game.
There’s plenty of great forwards in our sport but nobody quite like Taumalolo.
When we look back on the destructive Tongan’s career when he does retire, we’ll just shake our heads.
He has set the benchmark in the NRL, carried the Cowboys to their maiden premiership, won a Dally M and is the face of an unstoppable Polynesian revolution.
The man also has a presence like all the greats.
When Mal Meninga walks into a room everybody stops.
For years to come, we’ll do the same when the shadow of Taumalolo’s giant frame looms in the distance.
He doesn’t say much.
But he doesn’t need to.
His body of work does the talking.
We’ve been blessed in this era to see the likes of Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams, James Graham, Shane Webcke and Paul Gallen but they’re all just a rung below.
We all get so caught up on run metres, tackle busts and fantasy points but it was Taumalolo’s second effort in the 36th minute last night that makes him the player he is.