Auto Poster Kiwi-born Kangaroos forward James Tamou wants to play for NZ Māori

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Apr 23, 2013
Brendon Thorne

James Tamou wants to play for New Zealand Māori again, 11 years after his debut.

Seven years after spurning the Kiwis, Penrith Panthers prop James Tamou has expressed a desire to return to the New Zealand Māori rugby league ranks.

The 30-year-old former Australian forward and New South Wales State of Origin representative, has put his hand up for Māori selection for next month's game against the Indigenous All Stars in Melbourne.

"I've been in touch with them and they know I'm very interested in playing," Tamou told

But, the former Cowboys enforcer acknowledged competition would be tough for a place in the Māori squad for the February 15 clash at Melbourne's AAMI Stadium.

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"I was looking at a mock team and thought I might not even get a run here.

"I was a part of it before the start of my NRL career. Hopefully, we can get these games and show what Māori rugby league is all about."

Cameron Spencer

James Tamou is settled at the Penrith Panthers after earning his NRL spurs with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Tamou, of Māori and Danish descent, was born in Palmerston North but moved to Sydney with his family as a 13-year-old.

He first played for New Zealand Māori in 2008, before his NRL breakthrough with the North Queensland Cowboys.

In 2011, Tamou was named in the Kiwis' end-of-season train-on squad and, in April 2012, he told Australia's Daily Telegraph he would "be upset if I wasn't picked [for New Zealand]" for the upcoming Anzac test.

Five days later, he was named in Australia's squad after overtures from New South Wales' then coach Ricky Stuart.

Cameron Spencer

Blues prop James Tamou on State of Origin duty in 2016.

Tamou explained his change of heart was due to a desire to play State of Origin. Origin rules require all participants to be eligible and available to play for Australia.

At the time of Stuart's first invitation, Tamou told him: "Thanks for the call, but I want to play for the Kiwis''. When Stuart called again and said: 'Mate, do you want to play Origin", Tamou took some advice, and decided he wanted to have a go.

He told the Daily Telegraph at the time that "everybody knows Origin is centre stage for the world of rugby league".

Tamou's decision did not go down well in his native New Zealand.

Benji Marshall, the Kiwis' captain in 2012, said then: "Just listen to his accent and tell me he's Australian. But hey, if that's where his heart is and that's where he wants to play, we don't want him to play for us. If he doesn't want to be part of our New Zealand team, good luck to him."

Ian Hitchcock

New Zealand-born Australian prop James Tamou on the charge against the Kiwis in 2012.

Tamou made his debut off the interchange bench in Australia's 22-12 win at Eden Park in 2012.

Tamou, who has made 221 NRL appearances, has played 12 tests for Australia and 14 games for New South Wales.

He has not been selected for either side since 2016, but is ineligible to turn out for the Kiwis despite having been born in New Zealand.

International Rugby League Federation rules prevent players from representing more than one top tier nation teams - defined as New Zealand, Australia and England.

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