Bush workout: A day in isolation with James Tamou

James Tamou headed bush a few days back with the rear end of his Hyundai dragging.

That little car packed so tight, the Penrith captain recounts, "every seat was down bar mine".

Which makes sense.

Especially when you understand this hulking Panthers mainstay wasn't simply escaping Sydney for however long this COVID-19 pandemic lasts, but taking with him everything required for an NRL lockdown.

Think dumbbells, weight plates, Olympic barbell, medicine ball, even a rower.


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Which was a squeeze, sure.

"And three long hours," he said of the drive south.

But with the Panthers Academy now locked down for weeks, and possibly months, Tamou has shifted himself, wife Brittney and their four young boys to the in-laws' property near Braidwood.

Located in the Southern Tablelands, the 700-acre farm boasts cows, sheep, bulls, horses… and now one makeshift training facility for this 115kg enforcer in the last year of his NRL deal.

Given the Tamou clan spend most summers at said bush hideaway, the former NSW and Australian forward already has a large squat rack onsite, to assist with holiday workouts.

Add this to the gym gear he lifted from Panthers HQ, and suddenly the farm has been overhauled into a perfect workout zone for a Panthers skipper who now joins other off-contract favourites like Cameron Smith, Kieran Foran, James Graham and the Morris twins.


The perfect bush workout.
The perfect bush workout.

Quizzed on training while in isolation with four sons aged under seven, Tamou laughed: "Right now, I'm trying to train around noon, when at least a couple of my boys are asleep.

"And having that time for dad … yeah, I think without it my head might fall off.

"But that's also a big part of why we've come to the farm. During isolation, Brittney and I wanted the boys to have some space to run around and play."

But as for how Tamou replicates an NRL training regimen on the farm, especially if this lockdown stretches from weeks into months?

"Good question," he said. "In the past few days, I've been going online for CrossFit workouts.

"Given there aren't the facilities to lift as heavy as normal, it's about moving and getting the heartrate up.

"That's most important thing at this stage, to be doing something."


Tamou, the Panthers captain, is the ultimate professional. Picture: Robb Cox/NRL Photos
Tamou, the Panthers captain, is the ultimate professional. Picture: Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Also of importance to Tamou is the fact that, aged 31, and after 11 straight seasons of first grade, he is now in the final year of his Panthers deal.

"Which I've actually thought about a lot," he explained.

"But after some conversations with my wife and others, I've decided to keep playing.

"I know that when you hit your 30s, it's up there in NRL years. But I want to play on.

"So that's now my challenge during lockdown.

"I need to keep training hard so that eventually, when this ends, I'll not only be ready for Penrith, but also playing well enough to earn myself another contract.

"So no matter what happens in coming weeks, the onus is on me to be ready."



In three years with the Penrith Panthers, Jimmy Tamou has missed just one game through injury.

One game.

Last year, the man who now captains our side missed none.

Even aged 31, and in the middle of the world's toughest sporting competition.

Which doesn't happen by luck.

Instead, Jimmy understands that in rugby league, the little things aren't so little.

Stretching, rehabilitation, nutrition, sleep - everything matters.

Same deal, looking after his mates.

Tamou went into protective mode to look after his little teammate, Nathan Cleary. Picture: Getty
Tamou went into protective mode to look after his little teammate, Nathan Cleary. Picture: Getty

I remember one particular City Origin camp where, at the request of coach Brad Fittler, I'd taken our young halfback Nathan Cleary aside for some sparring at Woolloomooloo PCYC - just to see how he would handle it.

But Jimmy, he went into protection mode.

Not only asking to also come in on the session, but then going to town on me.

I love this about Jimmy.

The way he looks out for others.

He's actually a great example for everyone during this current climate because we all have people relying on us.

Family, housemates, friends; people who need us to find routine, stay active and remain positive.

Again, all those little things that have kept Jimmy Tamou on the field for three years.

Originally published as Bush workout: A day in isolation with James Tamou

Tamou’s gym has it all.
Tamou’s gym has it all.