How Cows poached NRL’s teen phenom from Reds
The Cowboys pulled off a cross-code poaching raid by prising NRL Nines teenage sensation Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow from rugby's Queensland Reds for just $2000.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the cut-price contract that convinced the 'Hammer' to turn his back on rugby union and join the Cowboys in a deal that put the 18-year-old on a path to NRL Nines stardom.
Just last week, only Cowboys insiders and local North Queensland fans were truly aware of Tabuai-Fidow's potential to carve-up at the NRL's nine-a-side showpiece.
In the space of 48 hours, 'HTF' has hit the NRL like a tsunami, with the Cowboys rookie lighting up the tournament in Perth with his tryscoring magic to propel North Queensland to their second Nines trophy.
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But if it wasn't for the eagle-eye of Cowboys recruitment chief Clint Zammit, Tabuai-Fidow could easily be a Queensland Reds whiz-kid dreaming of a Wallabies jumper.
Two years ago, the flying fullback was a boarder at Brisbane Grammar on scholarship with the Reds. Zammit, who also spotted Kalyn Ponga playing GPS rugby, just happened to be at a schoolboy game when Tabuai-Fidow terrorised Ipswich Grammar.
The Cowboys scout pounced immediately, sneaking under the Reds' guard to bring home a kid from Cairns who is already being hailed as rugby league's fastest man and a future NRL superstar.
"I didn't really get picked up by league when I was younger, so I tried union out," Tabuai-Fidow said after spearheading the Cowboys' 23-14 defeat of the Dragons in the Nines final.
"I got pretty far in union - I would have been pretty happy even if I got a professional contract in rugby.
"I was with the Reds for a little bit, just in their development squad, but then the Cowboys were pretty keen on me.
"I had moved down from Cairns to go to boarding school at Brisbane Grammar. It was pretty hard to move away from my family.
"I was at a rugby union school and then one of the guys from the Cowboys (Zammit) talked to me after a game.
"He said the Cowboys wanted to sign me, so I was pretty happy that I had the chance to move back closer to home."
Zammit said there are times when he does extensive due diligence on a potential recruit. He needed just one look at HTF.
"I went down to watch another kid Tom Gilbert, but he was injured and then I saw Hamiso," Zammit said.
"I don't know how keen the Reds were but I spoke to Hamiso's parents and the deal was done in five days.
"I also signed Gideon Gela-Mosby (former Cowboys speed machine) and Hamiso is quicker than him.
"The balance he showed to kick ahead and score those tries at the Nines was just freakish."
The Hammer idolised fullback greats Billy Slater and Matt Bowen and clocked 10.85 seconds over 100 metres as a 16-year-old. Now, two years more mature, it's fair to suggest Tabuai-Fidow is even quicker.
"I'm still working out how fast I am now," he said.
"It's great to put on the Cowboys jersey. I supported them when I was younger, so putting on (the jersey) is a privilege for me and my family."
Cowboys Nines skipper Jason Taumalolo said: "Hammer is a special talent.
"If I keep seeing what I've seen at this tournament, Hamiso could be the quickest player in the game.
"I've been really impressed by him. Off the field, he is very humble and very chilled. He just makes running look effortless. He's got the right attitude and it's great to see a local North Queensland boy coming through the ranks with this talent.
"Hamiso will have a good career in the NRL."