Jason Taumalolo says North Queensland made Cronulla captain Paul Gallen “eat his words” in Sunday’s pulsating 15-14 elimination NRL final victory.
Gallen accused the Cowboys of “crying poor” in the lead up to the match over their hefty injury toll – which included co-captains and Test stars Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
But the Cowboys had the last laugh when halfback Michael Morgan slotted over a 15-metre field goal in extra time, to end the Sharks’ premiership defence.
And Taumalolo, who looks up to Gallen and his longevity in the game, didn’t hesitate to hit back with some tongue in cheek when reminded of the barbs after the match.
“That’s Gal trying to get under our skin but it obviously didn’t really get to the boys’ heads,” Taumalolo said.
“It was a great battle and I think we were fortunate enough to get that win and make Gal eat his words a bit.”
Taumalolo and Gallen were both pillars of strengths for their respective teams at Allianz Stadium.
In performances that befitted the recent battles between the pair, Gallen posted a team-high 191 metres and 48 tackles in the middle for the Sharks while Taumalolo chalked up 242 running metres and scored a second-half try.
“As a player, you want to play against the best and tonight was no different,” Taumalolo said.
“Running into them both (Gallen and Andrew Fifita) a few times in the game was pretty good. The adrenaline rush was pumping a bit when you’re caught up in a battle in the middle.
“I have nothing but respect for both players”
Taumalolo’s effort was his 11th 200-plus-metre game of the season, while two quick play-the-balls in the lead up to Morgan’s field goal helped ice the match and book the Cowboys a semi-final date with Parramatta next Saturday in Sydney.
But he admitted he still admired the performances Gallen was churning out at age 36 – the oldest of any player in the NRL.
Gallen re-signed with Cronulla until the end of next season earlier this year, but has shown no signs of letting up his workload any time soon.
And 24-year-old Taumalolo – who signed a record 10-year deal with North Queensland in March – said he could only hope he’d still be at a similar level come the end of his career.
“He’s still making us young boys look a bit stupid at times with the crazy stats,” he said.
“With his age he’s still making 200-odd metres and 40 something tackles.
“That’s just typical of Gal, the way he’s playing. He could play another five or six years, he’s just one of those ageless players and hopefully we’ll see him play for another few seasons.”