After a roller coaster couple of years up north, new Penrith Panthers recruit James Tamou says his young family is happy and settled in their brand new surrounds.
Following eight seasons with North Queensland, the 27-year-old Origin forward signed a four year deal with Penrith in June, which Tamou admits was the toughest decision of his career.
Speaking on his second day of pre-season training, the Cowboys premiership-winner opened up about the challenges of living away from family and why he decided Penrith was the next destination for his decorated career.
“I have three kids and up there I was a bit far away from family, and that was the main reason I came down,” Tamou said.
“But I wasn’t going to sign with any team. What Penrith did this year was nothing short of impressive and I was watching them closely in the 12 weeks after I signed.
“In saying that, it was really tough to leave the Cowboys… I never wanted to leave Townsville – it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
Tamou made the call to leave his Cowboys teammates after he noticed his wife, Brittney, was particularly struggling with being away from her family in Braidwood, near Canberra.
The couple has three kids together, including a newborn, and things began to reach breaking point.
“Brittney would have her good days where everything would be alright but then she would have her bad days where she wanted to go home,” Tamou said.
“It got to the point where we were getting unhappy and it was getting unhealthy.”
Fortunately for Tamou and his family, Panthers boss Phil Gould and coach Anthony Griffin came to the rescue – offering the former Test star a lucrative deal reportedly worth $3 million.
“I met with Gus and Hook and I was impressed with everything,” Tamou said.
“Brittney and I are a lot happier now and we have a lot more hands to help out.
“Everything is close, including family.”
Now Tamou and his family are well and truly settled in Penrith, his focus now is taking the Panthers to the next level.
Tamou said he was looking forward to leading Penrith’s young pack of stars next year.
“Penrith have a young forward pack and a lot of room to grow,” he said.
“They have some big boys with plenty of potential, and I hope to take a leadership role in the forwards and for the rest of the team.”