Jason Taumalolo has credited a three-day-a-week vegetarian diet for taking his game to greater heights and the North Queensland Cowboys powerhouse intends to continue with the new regime this year.
The 24-year-old giant is on a quest to improve each season and started cutting down on eating meat last year.
Taumalolo told NRL.com his vegetarian lead-in to games had helped him keep his weight down and increased his energy on the field.
“A lot of players tend to eat a lot of meat and I have cut that down by having three vegetarian meals a week leading into games,” he said.
“That has helped me feel better and play better and I am going to stick with it.
“It makes me feel lighter on my feet because when you eat meat you end up putting on a lot of muscle, but I want to try and stay the same [weight].
“My partner helps me out with that and it is a bit of a bonus that she does most of the cooking.
“I’ve been having salads and soups. Pumpkin soup is a bit of a tradition. Minestrone is a favourite and we like to do vegetable curries. She’ll look up different recipes and if like one I’ll try and have that twice a week.”
Taumalolo said his diet did not just have physical benefits.
“If it works, you find your body tells itself to stay in that same routine each week,” he said.
“Then mentally you go into a game knowing that you have done your preparation, so you feel good. Then you find that you play better, so I won’t be changing that this year.”
Taumalolo has spoken of his desire to bring more offloads to his game and came up with a classic Harry Potter reference to describe his own ball-distributing talents as a youth, suggesting he once went to the Hogwarts “school for wizards” before putting that expansive style back up his sleeve.
“I was one of those kids who used to hold the ball in one hand and wave it around like you’re in Hogwarts,” he chuckled.
“Over the years that changed and I became a bit more of a ball runner instead of being an offload type of guy. A lot has changed in the space of a few years.”
Taumalolo said he would be looking to emulate his offloading wizard teammate John Asiata, who plays like he still is “in Hogwarts”.
“Any opportunity he gets he seems to find that extra pass and it is great having him around, so hopefully I can get some extra tips off him and take it into round one,” Taumalolo said.
Taumalolo indicated the Cowboys would unveil a more expansive style in their Telstra Premiership season opener against the Cronulla Sharks in Townsville on Friday night.
“The stats talk and we were one of the teams that threw the least amount of offloads last year and we want to change that and add a bit of second phase which can break down teams,” he said.
“We’ve been pretty good with our completion rates but that leads to us not offloading.
“We do have a few players who can poke their nose through the defensive line and create a bit of havoc by throwing out an offload.
“Greeny has given us the green light this year. He has said ‘if the opportunity is there, take it’ and hopefully that brings that unpredictability to us forwards.”
After signing a 10-year deal last year, Taumalolo had some deep and meaningful chats with coach Paul Green about not becoming complacent.
“Normally that tends to happen when you sign long-term big money deals and Greeny did talk to me about not becoming too comfortable in my position,” Taumalolo said.
“It is all about being as good as I can, and being consistent through each year.
“When you sign a long deal with a lot of money it can get to your head but knowing that I am sorted for 10 years has added to me just having fun.
“A lot of players can come to training and think it as a job I guess, but for myself it is a true hobby that I love doing.”
Taumalolo’s 2017 was his best yet. He was the joint Dally M Medal winner with Cooper Cronk, starred for Tonga in the World Cup campaign and helped inspire the Cowboys to the NRL grand final against the odds.
He is far from satisfied with that. Perfection is his goal, in incremental steps. “Hopefully I don’t have to take 10 years to get there,” he grinned.