By STEVE MASCORD
JAMES Tamou says he thought he would be sacked by North Queensland and banished from rugby league in the wake of his high range drink driving charge.
Tamou, fined $20,000 and banned from Origin II selection after recording a blood alcohol reading of .197 on June 10, made his return in for the Cowboys in Sunday night’s 24-4 win over Cronulla. He hopes to win back his Blues jersey with a strong showing against Canberra this weekend.
“It has been a very stressful time,” the 24-year-old tells League Week.
“Obviously when the incident happened with Blake Ferguson around the same time, there was talk about him not having his job at Canberra anymore.
“And I really thought that would happen to me, that I wouldn’t have a job anymore. It was scary thinking I would be out of a job, that I wouldn’t be allowed to come here and train with the boys and play anymore.”
Ferguson is currently facing charges of indecent assault after a night out on the eve of going into camp for NSW’s 26-6 Origin II defeat on June 26. While there was speculation that Canberra may opt to cancel his contract, the club has so far indicated it will stick by him.
Tamou’s financial penalty has been described by Australia captain Cameron Smith as being too harsh and his management is making representations behind the scenes for leniency.
“I have been trying to keep a low profile, just quietly coming to training and then slipping away,” he says.
“I’ve had a lot of support from people, a lot of text messages. The way I see it, it’s a learning curve. You live and you learn from your mistakes because I know for a fact I will never do anything like this ever again.
“I can’t wait to see myself in a couple of months and be able to look back on it from some distance.”
Despite suggestions, Tamou says he has been given no indication by NSW coach Laurie Daley that he will be in the Blues’ side for the deciding encounter with Queensland at ANZ Stadium on July 17.
“After a couple of weeks off, I just wanted to rip in for the Cowboys side and get a win,” he said.
Asked if he could bring something to the Blues side that was missing in game two, he responded: “Mate hopefully.
“It was really tough sitting on the couch watching the second Origin game. It’s going to be much harder in the next game.
“You’d like to think you could do a job for them but you’ve got to get picked first.”
Tamou clocked up 200 metres with his 19 runs in 48 minutes on Sunday night. Coach Neil Henry said the former New Zealand Maori representative was short of condition after his enforced break but impressed with his attitude at training while suspended.
“He was huffing and puffing there over the speed of the game but he ran for good metres and I like what he did out there,” said Henry.
“He certainly added a bit to the team.
“He’s been great at training. He’s enthusiastic and he hasn’t missed a beat. No doubt he’s disappointed at missing a game for his club and also that Origin game.”
NB: Since this story appeared, Tamou was selected for Origin III
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK