North Queensland snared young Jason Taumalolo for a stack of pizzas and loose change.

The giant Kiwi lock has rumbled ahead on another amazing season, leading the Cowboys into Sunday's NRL grand final in Sydney against the Melbourne Storm.

Former players are among those who believe Taumalolo has redefined what a lock should do in the modern game, and he has a $10m-plus contract to back up the high praise.

The Cowboys recruitment officer Clint Zammit is the man who changed history. He spotted Taumalolo as a 14-year-old playing alongside older kids in a touring New Zealand junior outfit which crushed a Townsville high school team 10 years ago.


With the tourists departing the next morning, Zammit had to act fast. He was in luck, because Taumalolo and his 15-year-old brother Warner were accompanied by their dad.

"The way he carried the footy impressed me. I knew if he goes home I'll never see this kid again," Zammit has told

"I raced back and did some paperwork and met them at a pizza shop. We met him about 9.30pm.

"They had about eight pizzas and I had him signed for four years at about 11 o'clock. We brought him out the next year."

10 things you need to know about Jason Taumalolo

Warner, who ended up playing under-20s for Parramatta, was part of the deal, at their dad's insistence. The price - $1500.

Taumalolo has gone on to sign a unique deal with the Cowboys, for nearly $11m over 10 years.

"The heat killed me," Taumalolo says, recalling his arrival in Townsville.

"I didn't get used to the heat until about three years later. I went out of my comfort zone leaving New Zealand. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made."

With legendary Aussie test prop Matt Scott injured, Taumalolo has provided extraordinary metres for the Cowboys, averaging around 200 per game and cranking up his performances in the playoffs.

He is not among the most prolific offloaders, but a staggering part of his game is the amount of ground he makes post contact - tacklers cling on as he keeps striding ahead.

Taumalolo shared the Dally M Award last year with Cooper Cronk for the NRL's best player, the first time a running forward had taken the gong since 1989.

Two years ago, the Mangere-raised Taumalolo knocked back a big offer from the Warriors, and they reportedly had another crack this year.

"Why change something if it's not broken?," Taumalolo reckoned.