Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

10 things you need to know about..... Jason Taumalolo

Jason Taumalolo. Photo / Getty Images.
Jason Taumalolo. Photo / Getty Images.

The drum beats have been out for a while, and the vibrations have suddenly got a lot louder.

Rampaging 110kg Kiwi forward Jason Taumalolo has arrived as a genuine NRL superstar.

The 23-year-old Cowboy lock was named the NRL players' player of the year last week, an award won by his celebrated team mate Johnathan Thurston for the past three seasons.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Taumalolo, who lines up against Cronulla in Friday night's preliminary final in Sydney.

1) Taumalolo is from Mangere and started league as a four-year-old with Papakura. He attended De La Salle College whose former pupils a number of very good footballers led by All Black great John Kirwan. Mayor Len Brown also went there.

2) Taumalolo was scouted by the Cowboys as a 13-year-old, and is the North Queensland club's youngest ever first grader, making his debut aged 17 years, two months and 21 days.

He was Junior Kiwi and made his full test debut in 2014, starring in a big Four Nations victory over Australia in Brisbane.

3) detailed his remarkable journey to Townsville, linking it to a former Cowboys player Wayne Ulugia from Papakura. Trailblazer Ulugia had been scouted by the Cowboys, and his parents raised money for a group of youngsters - including Taumalolo - to also trial for the club to help their son get over homesickness. It didn't work out for Ulugia, who parted company with the club over discipline issues, but Taumalolo has stormed to stardom.

Taumalolo said: "I was a bit of a troublemaker back in school, pretty much the class clown. I got into a bit of trouble out of school, lot of fights and that, but I moved here and I knew I had to change for the better. It was pretty strict living under Wayne's family...I didn't go out partying or anything like other kids would." Taumalolo lived with the Ulugias for two years but he was delighted when his parents, mum Tominika and dad Faai, moved to Townsville.

4) Following a Tongan tradition, his parents' wedding rings provide the gold in two of his teeth, something he had done as a nine-year-old while visiting Tonga.

"That's something that keeps them really close to me," he told the Townsville Bulletin.

"It's bit like a's something a bit different from Samoan tradition, which is having tattoos.

5) His first full international appearances were for Tonga, playing alongside the likes of Konrad Hurrell and Fuifui Moimoi at the 2013 World Cup.

6) There was a two year Kiwis-Kangaroos tug of war for Taumalolo, with Queensland coach Mal Meninga and the charismatic Maroons star Thurston bidding hard. His parents actually thought he should choose Australia because it had given him his main opportunities.

The former Aussie schoolboy representative caused a stink when he "defected" in 2014, a decision inspired by having childhood Kiwi heroes such as Ruben Wiki and Sonny Bill Williams. Taumalolo told the Courier Mail: "I was never going to go that way unless Queensland tortured me...choosing a black jersey is definitely the best decision of my career so far. If I went on to play for Australia, I would never have forgiven myself."

7) There's nothing too subtle about Taumalolo. He's in the modern style of lock, a giant who would have been a prop in the old days. He's not a great offloader, in keeping with how the Cowboys play. Taumalolo ranks alongside Panthers wing Josh Mansour as the top metre eater of 2016, and has the third most hit ups. He is 19th overall for tackle busts, and second only to Cronulla's Andrew Fifita amongst forwards. He almost went the distance against the Broncos in a truly memorable sudden death playoff on Friday, running a staggering 265 metres.

8) He reportedly turned down a $1m a season deal from the Warriors last year to remain with North Queensland. It was claimed this cost him about $800,000, but it has already paid dividends in the form of the 2015 premiership.

9) Taumalolo revealed before last year's grand final he almost quit the Cowboys in 2013 after then coach Neil Henry dropped him to a feeder club over concerns about his defence.

Taumalolo said: "I lost my confidence...I was ready to go, but the Cowboys said there was a chance we could be getting a new coach and asked me to hang in there."

10 The accolades have been pouring down on Taumalolo. After winning the players' award, Thurston said: "He has had an outstanding season I am very proud of him and what he has achieved this year."

League immortal Andrew Johns described him as a "freak of nature...the engine of this guy is amazing...he can sustain that speed for long periods, it's just extraordinary."

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