Cowboys enforcer James Tamou has vowed to fill some of the NSW Blues leadership void after captain Paul Gallen departs State of Origin at the end of the year.
Gallen, who has captained the Blues 13 times in his 21 Origin appearances, dropped a bombshell at Tuesday's official launch of the 2016 series, saying that this coming campaign will be his last.
While the 34-year-old left the door open at club level next year, he has quashed the thought of a return to the game's biggest stage beyond this season.
The departure of one of Origin's true hardmen leaves a gaping hole in the Blues' leadership stakes –one that will be filled by veterans Robbie Farah, Greg Bird and Beau Scott – but Tamou welcomed the opportunity to shoulder more responsibility.
"Yeah absolutely," Tamou said when asked if he wanted to fill some of the leadership void.
"I try – and obviously not as much as Gallen – to push out the minutes and what he does. I try to do that anyway, I try to make my mark in the game and try to make my point when we are in the team room.
"But obviously when he's gone I am going to be a bit louder and do a lot more."
After suffering a knee injury against the Cowboys in Round 1, there were fears Gallen's season could have been ended less than 80 minutes in, but he will miraculously return for the Sharks' clash with Wests Tigers on Saturday.
"He hasn't played many games this year but you look at Gallen and think he can go forever," Tamou said.
"It's going to be pretty tough, obviously; come Origin time he's the leader and we get on the back of him.
"But it's going to be tough when he goes to see who the boys are going to look up to next. There are obviously going to be other leaders stepping in to it, but I think 'Gal' is one of a kind and he will be missed."
With meterage statistics ranging from 224m (against the Roosters) to 82m (against Brisbane) Tamou's form has been mixed to say the least this season, but his effort and accountability is unquestioned.
In 2015 Tamou averaged 25 tackles per game, but this year that number has jumped to 34 under slightly increased minutes – an effort stat that has undoubtedly aided his case to Blues coach Laurie Daley.
This article first appeared on NRL.com