Tamou to channel JT after being handed captaincy

James Tamou's career with the Panthers was in limbo six months ago but the newly appointed captain is ready to take on the extra responsibility with both hands after he was announced as a surprise choice last week.

The most-capped forward in Penrith's engine room with 226 games under his belt, Tamou was one of six players originally named part of the club's leadership group for 2019.

But Penrith coach Ivan Cleary had other ideas last week and sprung a surprise on the 30-year-old former international by handing him the sole captaincy.

"I came in on Monday and about five minutes before the team meeting, Ivan pulled me aside, told me and I was a bit blown away," Tamou said.

"The team we've got are capable of so many leaders. For him to put his trust in me to lead the boys around, it's a great honour.

"I see it as an opportunity. Ivan said the reason he picked me was because the boys, they've got respect for you and everything you say is on the money and the boys listen.

"At the start of the year, I didn't see it that way. I just wanted to let my voice out, say my opinion, and obviously I saw it another way."

Tamou says he'll lean on his eight years of leadership experience under former Cowboys co-captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston.

"To be under them was very fortunate. And to be set in this role, there's some things I can take in," Tamou said.

"Obviously some meetings we had that we wanted to better ourselves - I wouldn't say crisis meetings - but those ones that stick out. I still can remember the words of JT and at some point in time, you knew it meant a lot to JT because sometimes he'd break down and cry.

"That's what it meant to him. You still remember that because it shocked you and blown you away. That's the type of guy you want to play for. So yeah, taking a lot of things out of that and hopefully I can instill it into my role here."

It could've been a whole different story for the former Cowboys prop in November.

Tamou has openly conceded he could've been the one to move on from the club instead of former teammate Trent Merrin, who departed for Leeds four weeks into pre-season.

"That was the turning point - Mez doing that," Tamou said.

"And I knew because of Mez doing that, I might've been next, or something like that. Massive turning point.

"I knew I had to turn it around and at this point in time, we're still down but it's just one of those things where you've just got to keep grinding along and do your best."