“My first thoughts, when I found out, was to make sure he was OK.

“Bubble life, I’ve got four young kids at home and I’m always busy. But the young guys who are single and go home to four walls and twiddle their thumbs, mentally it would have been tough. I’m not [condoning drug use], but there were a lot of things going on for ‘Nado’.”

Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden tested positive to cocaine on grand final night.

Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden tested positive to cocaine on grand final night.Credit:NRL Photos

Tamou inked a two-year deal with the Tigers in September, and knew the Panthers would struggle to retain all their talent.

He said Crichton, who is holding out for a better three-year deal, was worth every penny. He also hoped ”freak” Laurie – and Josh Mansour – would be released and given the chance to join him at the Tigers a year early.

“Because of the talent they have out there – I said this nearly the whole time I was out there about how the talent is unbelievable – I’m not surprised what is happening now,” Tamou said.

“It’s a shame because Penrith are such a good club but they can’t keep them all.

It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.

James Tamou

“A guy like Stephen Crichton is still so young but he’s definitely worth the money. I know ‘Critta’, he loves the boys and he loves Penrith. It’s not his fault because he deserves the money he can get. It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.”

Tamou spearheads a Tigers forward pack that includes Zane Musgrove, Shawn Blore, Stefano Utoikamanu, Alex Twal and Joe Ofahengaue. He soon discovered how powerful some of the younger players were during a Tuesday wrestling session.

A natural leader who skippered Penrith, Tamou has had no discussions about being appointed Tigers captain but was happy to fill the role if coach Michael Maguire wanted him to.

Tamou said the young Tigers reminded him a lot of the Panthers side from a couple of years ago. The two encounters between the clubs last season were ”scary” because you never knew what Maguire’s men would produce.

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“If they were on, you knew you were up for a big game,” he said.

“They’re young, they’re eager for success, and you can tell that from being there just a couple of days.

“I’m excited. I knew a few of the boys already, but I wanted to get to know the other boys’ names, the structures, and by getting in early it will allow me to hit the ground running in the new year rather than doing the intros. I wanted to do right by the Tigers.”

Tamou will remain in the Penrith area and commute each day along the M4 Motorway.

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