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Season 2017 has already been full of firsts for James Tamou – but when it comes to his place in the NSW VB Blues, the Panthers prop is hoping for continuity.

The former Cowboy faces a very different preparation to what he’s used to this weekend; Tamou has played for the Kangaroos at this time of the year five times consecutively. In 2017, however, he will have to watch the Anzac Test on a TV in Mudgee, as he prepares for his KARI City Origin debut in the final Country v City clash. While Tamou, understandably, would rather be wearing the green and gold, he is happy to still be given a chance in the representative arena.

“It’s obviously special to play the Anzac Test,” Tamou tells, “but it’s special (to be named for KARI City Origin) – as you get older you get excited about making these sides.

“You really take a hold of it. It’s more exciting seeing the young talent coming through, young players mixing with the older players.

“Whether starting or on the bench, it’s good just to be in the side and be in the mix.”

Tamou, who was close to the best on ground in the corresponding Anzac Test last year, knows why he was overlooked for the 2016 Rugby League Four Nations tour – and again in the Kangaroos’ first game of 2017. A move from Townsville to Penrith might not have helped his form, but the 28-year-old isn’t using that excuse for recent performances.

“It [his form] is not where I want it,” Tamou admits. “My standard for myself is obviously a lot higher than what I have been playing and it just needs to be better. Hopefully this break will do it good.

“I need to take everything up an extra level. Obviously being one of the oldest at the club now, I need to lead up front.”

Having been overlooked by Mal Meninga for the Kangaroos, Tamou had faced the prospect of playing no Rugby League at all this weekend – something the 14-time NSW VB Blues representative wanted to avoid. While some clubs reportedly held their stars back from Country or City selection, Panthers coach Anthony Griffin and football boss Phil Gould gave four players their blessing to take part in the fixture.

“It’s good to have them in the team,” Tamou says. “I think at the start of the year a couple of them could’ve been tossed up for the Anzac Test.

“It’s always good to have them in this sort of environment anyway and it’s always good to be always close by your teammates.”

With a devastating hamstring injury to Aaron Woods, Tamou will hope to improve his form quickly to prevent Laurie Daley selecting two new starting front-rowers for Origin I. That task begins on Sunday afternoon, when he lines up for KARI City Origin for the first and final time.

Secure your seat at the final ever Country-City clash in Mudgee on Sunday, 7 May. Purchase tickets today to witness history as the curtain draws on a great Rugby League tradition.

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