'Turncoat' Tamou adds insult to Kiwis loss
Not content by tormenting his homeland with his first try as an adopted Kangaroo, James Tamou then arguably provided one final insult after the trans-Tasman test in Townsville by donning the jersey he could have worn on a permanent basis.
As the players intermingled on Dairy Farmers Stadium late Saturday night, Tamou was seen, briefly, wearing the shirt Ben Matulino was happy to exchange - proving at least one Kiwi has no animosity after the former New Zealand Maori and 2011 Four Nations train-on squad member opted to represent Australia and New South Wales earlier this year.
Tamou promptly removed the black strip in favour of team issue gear as the post-match presentations played out though he denied there was any adverse reaction to his fleeting fashion statement.
"Benny's a good friend of mine and he asked to swap jerseys," the fellow front rower explained.
"We grew up together and I put it on out of respect for him. I didn't want to show off my 'Mad Monday' gut either.
"No one told me to take it off, everyone was cool with it."
Ultimately Tamou's most provocative act occurred in the 35th minute when took a Cooper Cronk pass and scythed through a gap in the Kiwis defensive line before sidestepping Josh Hoffman and powering over to give the Kangaroos a 10-4 lead they converted into an 18-10 triumph.
The 23-year-old from Manawatu was exuberant to put it mildly, though as former Kiwis forward Joe Galuvao tweeted: "Is it just me, or did Tamou go to hug a Kiwi before realising he had just scored for Australia?"
Tamou, who was rapt to claim the Kangaroos' players' player award, admitted he was momentarily disorientated yet there was no doubt where his heart lay since he debuted for Australia in April's Anzac Test at Eden Park.
"I guess the Kiwi jersey fits, but the Australian one fits better," he smiled.
Tamou was certainly more laidback after performing in front his adoring Cowboys faithful - a marked contrast to the hostility he endured in Auckland six months ago while warming up and then sat on the interchange bench.
"I think I was more relaxed coming into this game, in April there was too much on my mind with everything going on," he said.
"I couldn't really concentrate on my game, in this one I could really relax and play some footy."
Tamou made added another line break to his try-scoring incision and carried strongly as the Kangaroos eventually gained control of a willing encounter in the final 10 minutes.
"It's been a whirlwind of a year," he confessed with mixed feelings.
"I'm sort of glad it's over just to get a rest but looking back I didn't want it to be over because I was making all these teams."
Tamou revealed there was no sledging from the Kiwis players about his switch of allegiance during the heat of battle but he acknowledged he would forever be associated with the thorny issue of eligibility.
"My name will keep coming up every time Kiwis gets asked to play for Australia or State of Origin. My name will keep getting brought up because of that," he shrugged.
Matulino, meanwhile, regarded Tamou as just another worthy opponent - and a friend.
"I just told him 'good game, good season' and gave him my jersey.
"It would have been good to see him play for us but he's made his decision, I'm not going to hold any grudges."