‘You were one of them’: Todd Payten’s last laugh over ’expert’ wooden spoon list of shame

Payten surprised at Cowboys success! | 08:33
Staff Writers from Fox Sports

The North Queensland Cowboys were not only overlooked as genuine premiership contenders at the start of 2022, many experts had them running dead last.

It’s a fact not lost on coach Todd Payten as he leads the NRL’s most-improved side into tonight’s preliminary final showdown with Parramatta in Townsville.

Payten revealed in an interview on NRL 360 on Thursday he was sent a list of all of the pundits who tipped the Cowboys for the wooden spoon.

It comes after halfback Chad Townsend admitted earlier this month he had pre-season criticism of him and the team “saved on his phone” to use as motivation.

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Payten insists being written off hasn’t fuelled the Cowboys this year but it certainly puts the club’s remarkable turnaround — after finishing 15th last season — into perspective.

“You were one of them,” Payten laughed as he responded to the question from the Daily Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis. “So was Kenty, I think Braith might have been on it too.

“I was sent by a media manager something that he found online the other day and it was pretty much all the names of the experts who tipped us to run last.

“There were quite a number of names on there, I think it was close to 20.

“We haven’t used that as motivation at any stage of the year, what I was concerned about was what was said and done inside this building.

“What was said and done has been the right things and they’ve worked really hard, enjoyed doing it and found out how to win and what it takes to win and the physical price you need to pay in different parts of the game. They’re having fun with it which is great to watch and to coach.”

The Cowboys were also questioned over some of their signings, including bringing on veteran playmaker Townsend on big money and taking a punt on Broncos discard Tom Dearden.

Payten said it was the injury-enforced retirement of Michael Morgan that prompted him to look at what the team needed.

“We didn’t have a really strong voice in our spine. I’ve seen what a dominant half can do in different organisations that I’ve worked,” Payten said.

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“Just clarity around everyone’s role within the team, that’s what they provide. Having a conversation with Chad initially he was really clear on where his strengths and weaknesses lie and he’s also really big on his preparation and he’s a really professional.

“We just believed with our young kids he would teach them the right way to go about their business from Monday to Friday, everything between games, and he thinks about life and footy a little bit differently.

“... He’s got a few interests outside of footy and I think that’s a well-rounded person and the guys look up to him.”

Payten always believed his Cowboys were capable of better than what they produced last season but admits even he has been surprised

“If I’m being honest, probably not (did I expect we’d be where we are), particularly after the first round loss,” he said.

“But there were different moments in that first eight-ten weeks where I knew that we were a different team.

“I think the players started to believe more and more with a couple of those wins in the early part of the season.

“When you work hard and you believe and you’ve got some good people in the building. good things can happen. That’ where we’re at at the moment.”