He played alongside an Immortal-in-waiting for most of his career and James Tamou is already seeing the Johnathan Thurston effect of James Maloney at the Panthers, despite spending just weeks on the training field with his new teammates.
One of Penrith’s biggest recruits has given a nod to the club’s latest representative acquisition Maloney, who only weeks before Christmas remained unsure whether he would land at the foot of the mountains in the Matt Moylan swap deal with the Sharks.
But Tamou, who has battled hamstring tightness for much of the pre-season and is cautiously optimistic about being fit for the Panthers’ first trial, has already sensed his former NSW teammate Maloney’s Thurston-like qualities will rub off on Penrith’s maturing squad.
“It kind of reminds me a bit of Johnathan Thurston, in he demands what he wants and when he gets what he wants he can play to his best,” Tamou said. “I think that will help us for sure.
“Off the field he was unreal [in former Origin camps]. I was sitting in the back seat [of the bus] just watching him and laughing. He’s slowly bringing that here as he gets to know everyone. He’s so chilled and laid back he’s easy to get along with, but letting his voice be known, too.
“Even in Origin camp he was doing most of the talking and he’s brought that here as well, which is good to see. It will do the young boys, especially Nathan Cleary, the world of good. He’s still young and it won’t hurt to get that experience and knowledge.”
Maloney’s first hit-out for Penrith could be as soon as the Panthers’ opening trial game on February 17 against the Roosters, which could feature a clash with his n teammate and Origin foe Cooper Cronk.
Tamou’s interrupted pre-season has kept him detached from the main group since a week before Christmas, when he suffered a low grade hamstring strain, which has been complicated by a minor back issue.
“It’s pretty frustrating at the moment because you’re trying to build relationships and it’s getting closer to the season starting,” he said.
“The boys look pretty prepared and I’m still inside not quite getting there yet. It’s getting frustrating, but I’d rather do all this now than in the middle of the season and be missing games then.”
Tamou is the first to admit he made a slow start to life at Penrith but is relieved he won’t be saddled with the tag of marquee signing for the pre-season premiership favourites like he was last year.
Asked to rate his 2017, the 29-year-old said: “Inconsistent. It took a while to get there and I’d have one game and then go missing for a couple and then be back up there.
“Being favourites and me coming into the side definitely played a part [in my form last year], but 12 months on it’s taken a back seat. Instead of being the marked man I guess I can concentrate on the football a bit more.
“If I start well and then build on that, make that the level of footy I want to be at, then I can make a very good contribution to the team.”
The Panthers will cap their pre-season preparations with a clash against the Bulldogs before hosting the Eels in their season opener.