Kiwi-born Tamou devastated at final whistle

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 17:31 05/07/2012
James Tamou
Getty Images
CATALYST FOR CHANGE: Kiwi-born James Tamou caused a stir when opted to play for New South Wales over New Zealand.

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State of Origin was a brand new experience for James Tamou but he reacted to Queensland's continued domination with the resignation of a born and bred New South Welshman that has suffered first hand since the Blues last series win in 2005.

For 10 minutes after the final whistle at Suncorp Stadium the Maori boy from Palmy slumped disconsolate on the NSW bench alongside Ben Creagh - a teammate who has seen it all before - before finally venturing out into the middle of the Blues' field of broken dreams.

"I was sitting there, it was hard to get up and do anything after that, you feel like everything's gone," said Tamou, who could also have cited exhaustion as an excuse for his lethargy.

A 20cm long gash to Creagh's head meant Tamou logged more game time than expected before Queensland completed their seventh consecutive series victory with a deadlock-breaking Cooper Cronk field goal.

The 23-year-old had barely sat down after an opening stint featuring fisticuffs, five runs for 41 metres and 13 tackles before Ricky Stuart motioned him back into fray as a dazed Creagh was tended to by medics.

Tamou made it to halftime, blowing, hands on hips, and fortunately was offered some respite in the second spell of a physical and frenetic decider when he was spelled after conceding a kickable penalty in the 50th minute.

Ultimately Tamou was the hardest working front rower on the track, his 52 minutes dwarfed Petero Civoniceva's activity but his 30 tackles were immaterial - game three was always about the Queensland legend's 33rd and final Origin.

And like Darren Lockyer 12 months earlier, a favourite son was farewelled in appropriate style before the Maroon throng.

When watching previous series at home Tamou would tune out when the Shield was presented to Lockyer, last night he couldn't look away when Cameron Smith hoisted the trophy.

"I made myself watch it so next year, when we get back into it, I can remember that moment and how I felt. It hit really hard, I can't wait for next year," he said.

He might have tribal ink on an arm, play out of Townsville and be accused of turning his back on the Kiwis for financial gain, yet Tamou appeared like a true Blue when the series was on the line.

Quick to the brawls, eager to hit up and not take a backward step, Tamou's hard edge is likely to be required again next year.

"Those two young front rowers, they got valuable experience," said Blues coach Ricky Stuart, hinting that Tamou and Tim Grant will be back at the venue in 2013.

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Tamou certainly hoped to turn a nightmare into dream time next July.

"It's my first series but I hope it's one of many. Hopefully I'll be involved in New South Wales for years to come," he said.

Meanwhile, the other New Zealand-born player involved in one of the edgiest interstate series since the concept launched in 1980 practically gate crashed Queensland's celebrations.

Unlike Tamou, Ben Te'o waited expectantly on the Maroons interchange bench until the 59th minute when he was replaced Broncos teammate Corey Parker and the home side led by six.

"I'm just happy to be part of the seven in a row and Petero's last game," said the former Aucklander, who pledged allegiance to Queensland back in 2007.

"I've always wanted to get in there and mix it up with these guys. I had to be patient, wait till Mal (Meninga) gave me an opportunity.

"I ended up playing a high pressure part of the game, I was happy to be part of that."

Te'o made an error-free Origin debut at the expense of the more dynamic second rower Dave Taylor but was not distracted by his debatable promotion.

"I didn't worry about Dave. I just focused on what I was doing," said Te'o, who also replaces Taylor at the Rabbitohs next year.

- Fairfax Media

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