North Queensland Cowboys coach Todd Payten rejects talk of Jason Taumalolo leaving the NRL club

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Fired up North Queensland coach Todd Payten had a blunt message for any club sniffing around deposed club captain Jason Taumalolo.

The Cowboys raised eyebrows after the decision to axe $10 million man Taumalolo and Chad Townsend from the club’s co-captaincy.

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They have opted instead for young guns Tom Dearden, 22, and Reuben Cotter, 25, to lead the way for the coming campaign.

Amid speculation new Dragons coach Shane Flanagan was interested in the Tongan wrecking ball, Payten didn’t mince words, as reported by The Courier Mail.

“I kind of expected this stuff,” Payten said of the Taumalolo transfer talk.

“I knew this narrative would happen once the (leadership) call was made. It is predictable and somewhat amusing really.

“But I can assure you of this – Jason will not be at any other club. That won’t happen on my watch. He is happy here and staying here.

“Whoever is pushing this agenda is off the mark. It’s laughable to be honest.”

Since his rise to the captaincy position three years ago, Taumalolo has endured a difficult stretch.

Injuries have been a major factor for a player once considered the best forward in the game.

Turning 31 in May this year, there are concerns he will have the ability to see out his contract, which extends through 2027.

But he is said to be in outstanding shape entering his 15th season and while Payten admitted Taumalolo was gutted by the demotion, he has handled it well.

“Jase was surprised by the decision, but he understood why it was made,” Payten said.

“He was disappointed naturally, but I expected both he and Chad to be disappointed.

“Since then, he has shown great humility around the decision, around his actions and how important it is for him to work with the new leaders and the rest of the group.”

Coming off a home preliminary final loss in 2022, the Cowboys finished a disappointing 11th last season with just 12 wins from 24 matches.

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