With the first piece of the North Queensland jigsaw now firmly in place, coach Neil Henry is hoping to parlay James Tamou’s re-signing into upgrades for the NRL club’s other off-contract stars.
Tamou’s decision to spurn offers from Sydney clubs, including wooden-spooners Parramatta, has given Henry renewed confidence the club can keep its star quintet together beyond 2013.
Co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, as well as star fullback Matt Bowen and representative centre Brent Tate, are all off contract at the end of next season – but on Monday Tamou gave Cowboys fans a reason to be optimistic.
“I hope it will (help convince other players to stay),” Henry told reporters on Monday.
“We’ve talked about wanting to stay together as a club and that’s what we ideally want to do.
“… Hopefully we can secure Matt Scott as well, we’ve got the Test front row here (and) Johnathan.
“They’re the big three contracts we’re trying to get done as soon as possible.
“There’s no hiding the fact that other clubs are certainly interested in players that we’ve got off contract and James is no different.”
Tamou said with the focus off him, he was going to try to convince the likes of Scott to commit to the Cowboys long-term.
“I really hope so. That was another big part (of my re-signing),” he said.
“I think he would be pretty keen to stay too. It’s somewhere he started and not far from his home.
“I really hope the Cowboys can sort it out and hopefully we can stay and basically keep the same bunch of blokes.”
The 24-year-old, who established himself as one of the elite forwards in the NRL in 2012 by making his Test and NSW Origin debuts, said he felt he owed it to the club who gave him his NRL debut in 2009.
“I thought I owed a lot to the Cowboys and it’s that old saying ‘if it’s not broke, why fix it’,” he said.
And while he admitted other clubs came knocking, he never truly entertained the idea of leaving Townsville.
“Even before negotiations started I was keen to stay here,” he said.
“And then a couple of other teams showed their interest. I was shocked really to notice how much interest they showed.”
Henry couldn’t hide his delight having retained one of the game’s elite forwards – predicting the best was still to come from rugby league’s most destructive front rower.
“He’s got a lot of footy ahead of him,” Henry said.
“We expect that he will improve and with his work ethic, he will.
“His attack game has been fantastic, the metres he’s getting around the ruck and working in conjunction with Matty Scott, it really gives us good momentum through the middle.
“We’ll be looking for more of the same this year.”