Reagan Campbell-Gillard has arguably been Penrith’s best forward all year, and now teammate and fellow big man James Tamou believes the 24-year-old has the attitude and natural ability to take his career to the next level.
During the pre-season, the former Cowboy and Premiership winner singled out Campbell-Gillard as the player he couldn’t wait to play with and the one who he predicted would make a giant leap in 2017.
20 rounds in the can and the humble kid from Mount Druitt hasn’t let anyone down.
Speaking with the Weekender, Tamou strongly believes that if Campbell-Gillard can continue his good form into next year, he will play Origin footy in 2018.
“While Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been relegated to the bench in recent weeks, that in no means is a demotion,” he said.
“If he keeps playing like he is, he’ll be playing Origin next year.”
Since coming off the bench against the Titans and Warriors over the past fortnight, Campbell-Gillard has put in two of his best performances of the season, averaging 180 metres and 28 tackles.
Despite some initial head scratching from experts and fans, Campbell-Gillard’s move has proven to be a tactical masterstroke from coach Anthony Griffin.
Tamou said Campbell-Gillard likes to play with a chip on his shoulder.
“Reg really takes it personal in games,” he said.
“He’s a raw player that really just takes it to them and he can create something out of nothing.
“He’s just one of those players that really takes it personal and really does good things for the team.”
While Campbell-Gillard is firing at the right time of the season, so are Penrith who – on the back of three straight wins – sit just two points outside the coveted top eight. Despite winning ugly against the Gold Coast Titans last Saturday afternoon, Tamou said the side is finally clicking and doing enough to grind out victories.
“I think everyone is just coming together, we know what we are capable of and what we can do. It’s just putting it all together, putting it on the same page and everyone working it out,” he said.
“The belief is there and we just have to take all the positives out of the Titans game last Saturday – it wasn’t very pretty but sometimes that’s how you have to win.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.