Former Cowboys captains inspire unbeaten NRL start

Joel Gould |

Veteran North Queensland half Chad Townsend has been superb in the club’s unbeaten start in the NRL.
Veteran North Queensland half Chad Townsend has been superb in the club’s unbeaten start in the NRL.

North Queensland duo Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend could have kicked stones after being relieved of the captaincy, but their response has been crucial to the club’s unbeaten start to the season.

“They have both been great,” Cowboys coach Todd Payten told AAP ahead of the clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

“I know they were shocked. I know they were disappointed. They both accepted the decision and have shown great humility ever since by putting the team first and what is best for our club. 

“Their attitude towards their teammates and their profession with the way they play each week has been first class. I am thankful and admire them for it. They have both been really good for everyone.”

Payten elected to elevate young gun five-eighth Tom Dearden and lock Reuben Cotter as co-captains after the side missed the finals last year, following a preliminary final finish in 2022. 

Half Townsend and Cowboys’ 2015 premiership-winning forward Taumalolo are both closer to the end rather than beginning of their careers and the Cowboys decided to avoid a leadership vacuum and regenerate the team now. The response of the veterans has heartened Payten. 

Townsend, a 2016 title winner with Cronulla, kicked the crucial golden point field goal in round two in the 21-20 win over Newcastle and has provided excellent game management.

“He is just calm under pressure and really clear with his communication in the way he directs our side around the field,” Payten said.

“Everyone feels more confident when he is around. In that second half (against the Knights) he spoke really well at half-time and then nothing fazed him. 

“I wouldn’t say he had a great first half but he came out and put it to bed and played really well in that second half. He set up Jeremiah Nanai for a (late) try with a kick and then landed the field goal.

“Chad has kept his game pretty simple and is professional with the way he looks after his body. He puts the team first and it is good to see him playing well.”

Starting prop Taumalolo has been managed due to a knee injury that he has shown great resilience to play with.

Payten has limited his minutes but they have been mighty in their impact. The coach is also taking a long-term view.

“My first thoughts are always around what is best for his knee and what is happening over the next week or two,” Payten said.

“I know Jase is frustrated because the warrior in him wants to play (more minutes).

“He also understands what it is all about.

“We will see the benefits of that down the track whether it is a month’s time or two month’s time.”