Jason Taumalolo leads the way for the Cowboys.
Jason Taumalolo leads the way for the Cowboys. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Tallis issues warning for Cowboys rivals

RUGBY LEAGUE: League legend Gorden Tallis has backed Jason Taumalolo to take his game to another level this year and says the Cowboys hulk will be the main beneficiary of the signing of Jordan McLean.

In a prediction which will send shudders down the spine of opposing forwards, Tallis said Taumaolo will have the luxury of choosing quality over quantity behind the one-two punch up front of McLean and the returning Matt Scott.

The 2015 co-Dally M medallist was outstanding last year in Scott's injury-enforced absence, becoming the first forward in NRL history to rack up more than 5000 metres in spearheading the Cowboys' grand final charge.

Tallis said the arrival of former Melbourne Storm star and Australia World Cup prop McLean will free Taumalolo from doing as many tough carries as he was forced to in 2017.

Former NRL players Andrew Johns and Gorden Tallis look on during the NRL Auckland Nines match at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AAP Image/SNPA, Teaukura Moetaua) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY , INTL OUT, AUSTRALIA ONLY
Gorden Tallis (right) with fllow league legend Andrew Johns. TEAUKURA MOETAUA

"The benefit of having someone like Jordan McLean is Taumaulolo can pick and choose his runs a bit more,” Tallis said.

"What he did by himself last year was outstanding, and you'd expect McLean and Thumper (Scott) to give him quick play the balls.

"It'd be a pleasure being a back-rower or lock when those two have done the damage and the tough hit-ups, and you can take that third run. If the defence isn't back the 10 and not moving up, he can wreak even more havoc.”

The prospect of Taumalolo elevating his impact from 2017 is a scary one for rivals, and the 24-year-old has spoken of his desire to introduce more second-phase play into his arsenal.

Cowboys Jason Taumalolo gets a pass away while being tackled by Titans defence during the Round 13 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Saturday, June 3, 2017. (AAP Image/Michael Chambers) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jason Taumalolo has highlighted second-phase play as an area to improve upon. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

The aggression and agility of Cowboys back-rower Coen Hess has often been likened to Townsville-born Tallis, who is adamant he will handle extra attention from opponents in his second full NRL season.

The 22-year-old scored 13 tries in 27 games despite being moved to the middle for much of 2017 to accommodate seasoned back-rowers Gavin Cooper and Ethan Lowe.

Hess was rewarded with a place in the Queensland side for Origins II and III.

"I think it (what position he plays) gets overplayed, you just want him to get out there and get the ball in his hands,” Tallis said.

Coen Hess is tackled during the Queensland State of Origin team training session at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast, Friday, July 7, 2017. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt) NO ARCHIVING
Coen Hess is tackled during a Queensland State of Origin training run. GLENN HUNT

"If I was in his corner I'd say don't think about it, just get the ball and run. You're a big, strong bugger, make sure you have as many carries as you can.

"The extra responsibility last year didn't seem to worry him, it didn't seem to worry any of the Cowboys, to be honest.”

Tallis, along with fellow NRL icons Justin Hodges, Braith Anasta, Michael Ennis, Bryan Fletcher and Nathan Hindmarsh will visit Queensland and NSW fans as part of the Full on Footy Tour's national roadshow.

It includes stops in Newcastle (Feb 20), Wollongong (Feb 21, Bathurst (Feb 22), Cairns (Feb 28), Townsville (March 1) and the Sunshine Coast (March 2).