James Tamou looks set for Penrith.
James Tamou looks set for Penrith. Bradley Kanaris

Cowboys unsure on James Tamou’s future

COWBOYS officials have put on a brave face and refused to concede defeat, but the reality is representative prop James Tamou will play for Penrith in 2017.

Despite his manager Sam Ayoub announcing Tamou's decision to head to Sydney "for family reasons", Cowboys boss Laurence Lancini tried to stay positive when asked if the Panthers had poached their Australian and New South Wales forward.

"There's no certainty of what James wants to do," Lancini told reporters in Brisbane ahead of tomorrow night's blockbuster against the Melbourne Storm.

"Look, James loves our club and obviously he has a family decision to make at this stage. We're uncertain about his decision ... we've done everything we can within the constraints of the salary cap. We have salary cap pressures like all other clubs."

Tamou (pictured) almost walked out on North Queensland two years ago because of family pressures.

The Cowboys are understood to have thrown a $2.5 million, four-year contract upgrade at the 27-year-old Kiwi-born forward, who has played 11 Origins for NSW and 12 Tests for Australia.

His wife Brittney, who had their third child last year, is keen to be closer to her parents who live in Canberra.

The Cowboys will face a tough game against the Storm as part of a sold out double-header at Suncorp Stadium - Manly and the Broncos will clash in the second game.