Jason Taumalolo defends Kiwis coach David Kidwell over interchange blunder
Kiwis coach David Kidwell has been heavily criticised for his handling of the interchange against Australia but the player most affected by it has put the blunder down to a learning experience.
In his first test in charge, Kidwell made the schoolboy error of forgetting about his star forward, joint-Dally M medal winner Jason Taumalolo on the reserves bench.
The North Queensland Cowboys wrecking ball was bizarrely held back for the first 26 minutes of the second half as the Kangaroos raced away to a 26-6 victory in Perth.
Kidwell has repeatedly accepted responsibility for the gaffe but speaking before the Kiwis departed for the Four Nations in the UK on Wednesday, Taumalolo sympathised with his coach .
"Obviously 'Kiddy' (Kidwell) is still new to the coaching role and not only himself but all of us players have a lot to learn and we learned the hard way in Perth," he said.
Taumalolo averaged 52 minutes per game for the Cowboys this season but that jumped to 76 minutes in the extra-time play-off win over the Broncos and 62 when they were knocked out by the Sharks the following week.
Taumalolo admitted he would struggle to see out full 80 playing in the middle but there is no doubt Kidwell be looking to get more out of the big back-rower in the coming weeks.
"My job is to play the best footy I can and worry about the game and [playing minutes] is obviously his job," Taumalolo added.
"I haven't spoke to 'Kiddy' yet. We'll probably [discuss] that in the UK and talk more about how I'm going to be used."
Taumalolo was part of the team that won the 2014 Four Nations but is making his first tour to the UK having missed last year's series in England through injury.
It continues a memorable two years for the Auckland-born powerhouse.
He played a key role in the Cowboys' maiden premiership-winning campaign in 2015 before being judged the best player in the NRL this year alongside Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk at the Dally M awards.
Such success brings added pressure to perform but Taumalolo doesn't feel like he has to do anything special in the black jersey.
"I don't feel like I have a lot of expectations on me, especially with the amount of talented players I've got around me.
"Although I have the Dally M title on my name, I definitely won't shy away from playing the best footy I can. I'll do my job on the field and as long as the boys do their job we'll look after ourselves as a team."
Taumalolo's stellar season is even more remarkable given that he has carried a knee injury for most of the year.
The 23-year-old has struggled with knee injuries in the past with a medial ligament problem keeping him out of last year's tour.
But he remains confident he can continue to manage the issue in England.
David Kidwell coaching debut going about as good as I expected. Worse than Kearney. #RoosKiwis— Varun Chilakapati (@Varunzzzzzz) October 15, 2016
"I didn't really feel 100 per cent throughout the whole year," Taumalolo said.
"I think my knee will stay like this for a while so I've just got to get myself used to it and get myself ready mentally and try and get myself best prepared for a game."
Taumalolo is contracted to the Cowboys for another season but his explosive running game has seen him linked with a switch to the NFL.
He didn't rule it out but at this stage Taumalolo has no plans of following in the footsteps of Jarryd Hayne.
"I'm just as surprised as other people about the NFL talks," he said.
"If they do approach me I'll obviously talk to them but at the moment I haven't heard anything so it's rugby league for now."