North Queensland Cowbous’ Jason Taumalolo set to leave amid rift with Todd Payten

NRL premiership winner Ben Te’o has made the extraordinary prediction that Jason Taumalolo will leave the Cowboys before his 10-year, $10 million contract expires, due to his strained relationship with Todd Payten.

The coach’s baffling use of Taumalolo was a major talking point in 2021 and has continued to be so this season, after the Tonga international played prop in the first round and only had 51 minutes.

Taumalolo was originally named to play lock, his main position, but was moved to play in the front row amid late squad changes.

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Te’o believes the latest twist in the Taumalolo-Payten saga could lead to the former landing at another club before his contract expires at the end of 2027.

“All the teams there should look at that, and maybe the Cowboys want to move it forward at some point,” Te’o said on Triple M’s. Rush hour with Leisel, Liam and Dobbo.

“It started early last year with Todd Payten coming out in one of his first press conferences and kind of criticizing Taumalolo, and that kind of rumor never went away, really.”

Te’o was referring to the press conference in which Payten accused Taumalolo of ‘cutting corners’ in the first round last season.

“The fact that he’s got limited minutes, he’s got a big million dollar multi-year deal, something’s going to have to give out there, because right now Todd isn’t playing him enough minutes,” added Te’o.

“Maybe he doesn’t trust Jason on the pitch for that long. Something’s got to happen. We’ve got to go, maybe.”

Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and for free on 9Now.

A possible destination for Taumalolo is the Dolphins, who are set to play their first season in the NRL in 2023.

Wayne Bennett’s men have so far secured strikers Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi, Mark Nicholls and Ray Stone.

“I don’t think it’s going to last,” Te’o said of Taumalolo’s Cowboys contract.

“They can go out in the media and say, ‘No, we’re okay with Jason, he’s staying here to see his deal’, but when they get a good offer and both parties are happy, I think you get it. see you switch to another team.

“The Cowboys will have to drop some cash to make it work and that’s how the world turns in the NRL.”

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Te’o described Payten’s use of Taumalolo as “weird”.

“He starts the named match in his usual position at lockdown…then an injury comes up and they make some changes and they name him at the prop,” Te’o said.

“Now look, the props and the locks are pretty much the same thing; I don’t think there was a need to change it. But what happened was he was getting minutes of props and was taken off the field for a long period of time, and I just personally think he’s someone who needs to get in shape.

“He just doesn’t have enough minutes right now to get where he needs to be.”

The Cowboys will meet the Raiders in Townsville in the second round.

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