Cowboys coach Todd Payten’s manipulation of Jason Taumalolo confuses Wally Lewis and Sam Thaiday

Rugby league legend Wally Lewis says he has been left “completely confused” by Cowboys coach Todd Payten’s management of former Dally M medalist Jason Taumalolo.

Payten grabbed the headlines early in the season when he made a concerted effort to limit the 28-year-old’s minutes, saying the club wanted to be “mindful of his body and the pace of his work”.

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After a frustrating season that saw the Cowboys finish second to bottom in the standings with just seven wins, Lewis questioned the merits of limiting the team’s top player, before moving him from his preferred lockdown position to the rear edge.

“I really didn’t see why he (Payten) changed Taumalolo. I was completely confused by that,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“Even in the tough times for the Broncos, Darren Lockyer was not moved, Allan Langer was not moved.

“You are building the base of a team around your champions, and I thought that should have been the way North Queensland presented their season.

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“It was very difficult to understand. Maybe I wasn’t close enough and couldn’t see that a number of other players couldn’t be placed in these positions.

“Seeing him in this position left me a little confused, I have to say.”

Lewis’s point was echoed by Broncos great Sam Thaiday, who implored the Cowboys to build their team around Taumalolo next season.

“I don’t know how long Taumalolo will be on the Cowboys contract, but that shouldn’t reflect the way they play him now,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“I think they should play him this season and get the best of him this season. Next season is not promised and the following season is not promised.

“You are building your team around your best players, and I think Taumalolo in that 13th position is at his best, playing on the back of fastballs, destroying and unleashed in the middle.

“We brought up David Fifita and I said I would love to see Fifita play in that lock role and have carte blanche… I would love to see Taumalolo have carte blanche on the pitch as well.”

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