Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend have paid the price for North Queensland's disappointing NRL season in 2023 after the veteran stars were axed as Cowboys co-captains for the upcoming season. The Cowboys failed to make the finals in 2023 after finishing the regular season in 11th place, with Taumalolo and Townsend seemingly paying the price.
In contrast, Tom Dearden has been rewarded for the best season of his club career to date and it set to become the club's youngest skipper after being handed co-captaincy duties alongside Maroons star Reuben Cotter. It marks a remarkable rise from Dearden, who has resurrected his career at the Cowboys after being let go by the Broncos in 2021. The playmaker's elevation to his leadership role at the Cowboys will see him take the reins at the Cowboys at a younger age than NRL legend Johnathan Thurston, who was 23 when he was named captain in 2007.
Dearden was once touted as a long-term halves solution at the Broncos but his time at the club ended abruptly in 2021 when he shifted to North Queensland midway through the same season Brisbane collected its first wooden spoon. The move north paid immediate dividends for Dearden and his stunning career resurgence in Townsville culminated in a Queensland State of Origin debut during the 2022 series decider.
The playmaker's elevation to co-captaincy at the Cowboys comes after he rejected interest from a number of rival clubs to commit his future to North Queensland by signing a lucrative five-year contract extension that will keep him in Townsville until 2029. Dearden's co-captain Cotter, meanwhile, has grown into one of the club and Queensland's most important players, highlighted by the Wally Lewis Medal he won as the standout player in last year's Origin series.
Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend axed as captains
For Taumalolo, however, his demotion from co-captaincy is a further blow to the 2016 Dally M Medal winner, whose playing minutes have gradually been reduced in the years since he signed a massive 10-year deal in 2017. Taumalolo has struggled to replicate the form that saw him named NRL lock of the year for a third time in 2018, with Cowboys coach Todd Payten often trying different things to get the best out of the destructive forward.
Payten admits the decision to strip Taumalolo and Townsend of the Cowboys captaincy was "not made lightly" but suggested it was partly down to the club's ageing roster. "This decision was not made lightly and is certainly no reflection on Jason and Chad's leadership," the Cowboys coach said. "This was a long-term decision for our club.
"We have made the decision to make a change now to help our new captains develop while still having experienced shoulders to lean on. Chad has had a profound impact on our club since his arrival, he has brought a different view to our players, particularly around professionalism and life away from football. Jase has always led through his actions, our players look to him in the toughest moments, which is one of the signs of a great leader."
Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend have been replaced as #Cowboys co-captains..
Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden take the reins.
Wonder how this all works out with Lolo.
— ReadingThePlay (@ReadingThePlay) January 28, 2024
North Queensland legend Jason Taumalolo has been sensationally stripped of the Cowboys captaincy as part of a leadership shake-up in North Queensland. Meet the team’s new captains👉 https://t.co/pGFSqZe5Ly pic.twitter.com/SVD0aP893e
— Daily Mercury (@daily_mercury) January 28, 2024
Its the off season, and the gears are turning in my head!
So, I ask....would the North Queensland Cowboys be open to allowing THE GREAT Jason Taumalolo to leave and play for another club if they got the right offer?#RugbyLeague #NRL https://t.co/32XKZgDR9G
— League Freak (@LeagueFreak) January 28, 2024
Tom Dearden and Reuben Cotter have been named the youngest co-captains in the Cowboys' history.
They take over from Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend who are stepping aside.
🤠🏉#NRL | #ridemcowboys pic.twitter.com/hXCfRFLwj0
— bet365 AUS (@bet365_aus) January 28, 2024
Tom Dearden and Reuben Cotter named Cowboys co-captains
Payten paid the ultimate compliment to his new skippers Dearden and Cotter after insisting they "represent everything we stand for and who we are as a club". The Cowboys coach added: "They're local kids, they're relentlessly dedicated to this club and their teammates, but they've also had some life challenges which they have had to work their way through and now they're representative players," he said.
Dearden said the honour of being named co-captain of North Queensland is extra special because of his roots and the men who've come before him. "I played all my junior football in North Queensland, I supported the club growing up," he said. "When you look back at the history of the players who have captained this club, it includes some of the best to ever wear a Cowboys jersey and to be able to follow in their footsteps is very special."
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