North Queensland Cowboys, Todd Payten Jason Taumalolo, pre-season, Castle Hill, tough approach

The Cowboys surprise surge to third on the ladder after nine rounds can be traced back to a brutal pre-season led by no-nonsense coach Todd Payten.

North Queensland won just seven games in Payten’s first year at the helm last season but he stuck to his guns and the tough love approach is paying dividends in 2022.

Payten thought his players needed to “toughen up” over the summer and he put them through their paces over a grueling three months.

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It had the desired effect with a reinvigorated Cowboys outfit taking the competition by storm this season, with their results even surprising even Payten.

“I thought we had enough ability, we had some inexperience and I just thought we were losing games in periods of matches rather than moments,” Payten said on NRL 360.

“We needed to toughen our guys up mentally and physically and we just challenged them day after day.

“We threw some curve balls at them at different stages. We’ve got Castle Hill here — we ran up that three times without any warning.

“We got them in really early in the mornings for two reasons; to beat the heat is one and the other is to make them a little uncomfortable about time management, getting out of bed and preparing for training.

Inside Todd Payten’s brutal pres season camp.Source: FOX SPORTS

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“We did a lot of contact, a lot of tackling and we just made them do things that they didn’t want to do day after day. At the moment it’s showing that it worked.”

Payten was asked if he was worried, as a rookie coach, about losing the playing group by pushing them too hard.

Payten has admitted he put too much “pressure” on his best player Jason Taumalolo, but said he was never worried about losing the group.

“That didn’t cross our minds as coaches,” he said.

“We had a pretty honest review of the season just gone, we leaked a lot of points and a lot of those points weren’t from the breakdown of the system it was from missed tackling and concentration.

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