Jason Taumalolo's NRL truth exposed in staggering $950k dilemma for Cowboys

Damning numbers have raised major questions around the 30-year-old's monster deal.

Serious questions are being raised about Jason Taumalolo's club record 10-year, $10 million contract with North Queensland after damning statistics that show a steady decline for the Cowboys star. The 30-year-old signed his record-breaking deal with the club in 2017, one year after winning the Dally M Medal as the best player in the NRL.

Taumalolo is also a three-time Dally M lock of the year and was co-captain of the Cowboys until earlier this year, when coach Todd Payten decided to axe him and Chad Townsend and appoint Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden as the club's new co-captains. Taumalolo was understood to have been blindsided by Payten's decision, fuelling rumours that his relationship with Payten had further soured after a reported falling out before the 2022 season.

Coach Todd Payten has a $950k Jason Taumalolo dilemma to figure out at the Cowboys. Pic: Getty
Coach Todd Payten has a $950k Jason Taumalolo dilemma to figure out at the Cowboys. Pic: Getty

Most of the commentary around the coach and player has centred on Taumalolo's diminishing minutes and how Payten has managed his star. The issue has again came into sharp focus after the Cowboys' thumping 43-18 win over the Dolphins in round one, where Taumalolo played just 22 minutes before being rested by Payten for the remainder of the game.

Jason Taumalolo's key stats down amid decline in minutes

The Australian’s Brent Read told NRL 360 that Cowboys officials put the move down to preserving their star for the remainder of the season - a somewhat strange explanation seeing as though it's only round one. The glaring reality is that since 2020, Taumalolo's average minutes per game have dropped from 61 to just 49 in 2023, with his major stats including run metres, tackle busts and post contact metres all on the decline as well.

Given the fact Taumalolo is reportedly being paid $950,000 per season and still has three more years to run after this one on his monster deal, it's a conundrum the Cowboys will be keen to solve. The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio told NRL 360 the Cowboys may be forced to try and move on the superstar after suggesting they are not getting value for their money.

“They need to make a decision and look at what does Taumalolo look like in 2027, and what are we getting for $1 million in 2027,” Riccio said. “You need to be able to sell players too and right now Taumalolo is sellable and another club would pick him up.

“But in 2025, or 2026 or 2027 when you’re paying him a $1 million you could be left with a lemon.” NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said Taumalolo's situation was different to other players who've signed long-term deals such as Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans because of the position he plays and the strain his game puts on his body over a long period of time.

Jason Taumalolo's key stats have been on a gradual decline along with his minutes per game from 2022. Pic: Getty
Jason Taumalolo's key stats have been on a gradual decline along with his minutes per game from 2022. Pic: Getty

Fears gruelling career is catching up on Jason Taumalolo

“Given how brutal the game is on your body, Daly Cherry-Evans was given an eight-year deal and it has come up roses for the Sea Eagles," Kent said. “Season after season he’s been worth every dollar. The difference with Taumalolo is he’s a middle forward which is much more taxing on your body than a playmaker.

“Over time as stats are showing the trend is heading downwards, if this continues he’s going to have fairly average statistics.” Kent also questioned whether how much of Taumalolo's dwindling minutes per game for the Cowboys was down to the coach preserving his star, or the player simply not being physically capable of playing more.


“Maybe Todd Payten is trying to look after him by saying he’s preserving him when in fact he just doesn’t have the output anymore than he did five years ago," Kent added. “People talk about Mike Tyson, young and explosive, but a lot of good boxing judges said the problem with him is his style, it’s a young man’s style and we saw than in his career.

“Taumalolo is a young man’s style, the way he came into the game with the barnstorming runs, he was doing things no middle forward in the game was doing at the time. But his body is catching up to him a little bit so Payten has had no choice but to preserve him a bit.”

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