Taulagi extends NQ stay, tipped for Aus

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North Queensland have received a massive boost ahead of the NRL qualifying final against Cronulla with winger Murray Taulagi signing a three-year extension to remain at the club until the end of 2026.

And before leaving Townsville on Thursday for Saturday night's clash at Pointsbet Stadium, Cowboys coach Todd Payten predicted the 23-year-old would play for Australia this year.

Taulagi is one of three key North Queensland players to have re-signed in the past fortnight, joining fullback Scott Drinkwater and prop Griffin Neame in penning new deals.

"I think it is a great reflection on where we are as a club and the environment we have created. Players want to stay," Payten said.

"We are super excited to have Muz. He is a terrific player and his best footy is in front of him. I reckon he is firmly in the frame to play in the Australian side at the end of the year at the World Cup."

Since making his NRL debut as a 20-year-old in 2019, the former schoolboy rugby union outside back has scored 27 tries in 53 games.

"Murray has developed into an integral member of our back five," Cowboys general manager of football Micheal Luck said.

"This extension gives Murray some long-term security and allows him to focus on working with Todd and the coaches on refining his wing play and then potentially look to move in-field as his career progresses."

Taulagi has enjoyed a stellar 2022, sitting second on the Cowboys' scoring list with 15 tries in 23 games.

His acrobatic finishing and strong carries earned him representative honours, debuting for Queensland in State of Origin's game two before missing game three due to COVID-19.

The Cowboys have not played semi-final football since 2017, when they made the grand final, and their coach insists they're not just making up the numbers.

"We are really excited and we are going down to rattle some cages," Payten said.

The Sharks have a big pack and welcome back lock Dale Finucane (ribs) and prop Toby Rudolf (knee) to make it even more formidable, but they hold no fears for a Cowboys outfit led by co-captain Jason Taumalolo.

"Have a go at our pack," he said.

"There are some pretty big bodies in there. Whoever wins the battle in the middle will have their nose in front. We have power in the middle and will fight fire with fire."