Cleary had just blamed himself for the Panthers loss to Melbourne, especially his cut-out pass that led to an intercept try, and listened to Tamou as he presented him with the Rugby League Players’ Association Players’ Champion award.
The halfback stood up to thank Tamou before he broke down in tears.
Tamou was identified by the Tigers for his leadership qualities, which will come in handy following the departures of favourite sons Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence. The pair played 577 NRL games between them.
Tamou, an Origin and international representative with 267 games experience, has often spoken about embracing the captaincy and the different ways he can improve his skills in mentoring younger players.
Royce Simmons, the Penrith legend who spent time as Tim Sheens’ assistant at the Tigers, including the club’s 2005 premiership season, backed Tamou to thrive if appointed captain in his first year at the joint venture.
“I’ve got no doubts he’d do a really good job,” Simmons said. “You either have it or you don’t – you’re a leader or you’re not. And Jimmy is.”
Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe told The Sun-Herald: “He’s already proven himself as a skipper, but whether he will be the Wests Tigers new skipper is a long way from being decided. We have a lot of young guys at the club who have been around a long time now and are stepping up as leaders.
“We’re certainly excited to have Jimmy come on board.
“Jimmy has demonstrated, certainly over the last two years, what sort of influence he can have on an emerging and young group of players, which is what we have here at the Wests Tigers.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers continue to wait on Josh Addo-Carr, who is desperate to return to Sydney but remains contracted to Melbourne.
The Tigers are seen as the front-runners for his signature with a four-year deal on the table.
The Storm want a like-for-like replacement, but the Tigers have no appetite to release David Nofoaluma, the winger Melbourne are interested in.
There was talk Addo-Carr could be headed to Belmore with the Bulldogs prepared to offer up Reimis Smith to the Storm in a swap deal. It is understood Smith has been offered to several clubs, including the Tigers, who were approached a few months ago about taking on the outside back as well as Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
The Tigers have four spots they need to fill on their 30-man roster.
Marshall continues to be linked to the Cowboys, but the North Queensland club are refusing to go anywhere near the $300,000 asking price his camp are pushing for.
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.