Jason Taumalolo in brutal new NRL fallout after startling move by Origin-affected Cowboys

Taumalolo's future at North Queensland has been cast into further doubt.

Fresh questions are being raised over the future of Jason Taumalolo at North Queensland after the marquee Cowboys star was once again left on the bench, despite his side being hit hard by State of Origin. The Cowboys are missing six players because of Origin duty ahead of Sunday's NRL showdown with the Roosters, including forwards Jeremiah Nanai and Reuben Cotter.

Many would have expected it to be a no-brainer for coach Todd Payten to elevate his highest-paid star Taumalolo to the starting side with some many players out, but the marquee man once again has to settle for a spot on the bench. The bizarre situation has led to renewed speculation the Cowboys and Taumalolo are edging closer to a separation, despite the three-time Dally M lock of the year having three more years to run on his lucrative contract after this one.

Pictured right is Cowboys star Jason Taumalolo.
Jason Taumalolo has again been named on the bench for the Cowboys despite a host of players missing due to State of Origin duty. Pic: Getty

Taumalolo's record 10-year, $10 million contract with the Cowboys has already come under sharp focus this season, amid criticism the Cowboys simply aren't getting value out of their marquee star. Taumalolo was dumped as co-captain by Payten before the season, his minutes per game have been down on previous years and so have most of his hey stats, with concerns the 30-year-old has become "unsellable" for the club, considering his hefty price tag.

Speaking about the current predicament on NRL 360 on Wednesday night, Fox League reporter James Hooper said he was shocked the former Dally M Medallist couldn't crack the Cowboys starting side with so many players out. And he claimed there was "friction" between the player and his coach that could ultimately come to a head.

“This stuns me. They have six State of Origin players out of the team to face the Roosters on Sunday and their highest paid player can’t even make the starting 13,” Hooper said. “I’m told there is a lot of friction between Todd Payten and also Jason Taumalolo and dates back to probably 18 months ago, maybe even as far as a couple of years when Todd first got the job...

“From an outside point of view, it looks as though there’s going to be some agitation here at some point and I think the club may have already tried to put some pressure on Jason. To me, reading between the lines, it looks as though by not selecting him in their best 13 to start this weekend, is that they’re trying to put pressure on him.”


NRL great Gorden Tallis took aim at Cowboys coach Todd Payten's handling of his marquee star. “It’s been poorly handled,” Tallis said. "It got under Todd’s skin the first time he challenged one of North Queensland’s greatest players... He played at Penrith (in 2021), replaced him and said he’s not up to it and not driving the standards. I don’t think you do it to Jason Taumalolo. He said he was sending a message but the message now has dwindled out. If he’s your best player, if he’s your most damaging player, if he’s your leader, he leads.”

Jason Taumalolo is seen here in action for the Cowboys against the Tigers in the NRL. Pic: Getty
Jason Taumalolo is seen here in action for the Cowboys against the Tigers in the NRL. Pic: Getty

NRL 360 host Braith Anasta said if the Cowboys were looking to part ways with Taumalolo, then playing him off the bench is actually hurting his value on the player market. “What it does too by not (playing him in the starting side) is that it devalues him which means another club won’t pay anywhere near that which means it’ll cost the Cowboys even more to let him go somewhere else because I’m assuming he still wants to play at the highest level," Anasta said.

The Daily Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis agreed and said Taumalolo has become “almost unsellable” as a bench player on massive salary. “No one is going to pay him $900,000 now, so you get to the point you actually can’t sell him because the Cowboys aren’t going to chip in $300,000 to play elsewhere,” he said.

"That’s not sellable because you still need to replace him in your cap. At the moment you’ll be spending $600,000-$700,000 for a player that’s in the bottom of your 30 and Jason Taumalolo playing elsewhere. It can’t happen.” There had been suggestions earlier in the season that Payten was preserving Taumaolo so he is fit and firing at the end of the season but it looks less likely after his latest omission from the Cowboys' run-on side.