The Penrith Panthers have kicked off the season with a 24-0 belting of the North Queensland Cowboys.
In a workman like win for 2020’s defeated grand finalists, the Panthers dominated possession with 66 per cent in the first half for an 8-0 lead at the break.
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It meant the Cowboys were still in it in the second half but the visitors’ opportunities were few and far between as the Panthers claimed a four tries to zero win.
But in the Cowboys’ first match under Todd Payten, the side appeared to make a very different choice with the use of wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo.
The 2016 Dally M Medallist told AAP during the week that he would be used in shorter bursts in an attempt to increase the Cowboys’ offloading and make an impact when he’s on the field.
But the star played just 51 minutes, with 10 runs for 71m, one offload and 23 tackles.
It’s a long way away from a man who carried the Cowboys on his back with multiple matches of over 300m.
The Jason Taumalolo move shocked plenty of people.Source:Getty Images
Fox League’s Braith Anasta couldn’t believe the tactic as he was subbed off in the 27th minute, only to return in the 57th as the Panthers opened up an 18-0 lead.
“I’m not sure what Todd is thinking in this,” Anasta said.
“He needs to be on that field more than he has been. Where is Taumalolo? Get him on there!
“I’m just amazed he’s not out there.”
Post-match, the Fox League panel said it was a concerning look for the Cowboys.
“They have a great team but they need to get their key players the ball more,” Benji Marshall said. “Michael Morgan needs the ball more, get a bit more involved and maybe take a bit more control of the team. And Jason Taumalolo, usually a guy who runs over 200m a game, playing shorter minutes and we’re not used to seeing that from Jase. So those guys need to get more footy.”
Cooper Cronk added: “He’s one of your biggest impact players, he just needs the ball more. I know we spoke pregame that Todd Payten’s trying to get more effective runs out of him by playing less minutes but the big guy needed to be out there.”
“You would have thought possession would have swung at some point and he was probably trying to hold Taumalolo back,” Michael Ennis said. “But given that he’d been so public about reducing his minutes and waiting for that turn and it just didn’t turn for him.”
Bringing Jason Taumalolo back to the field is surely not the answer foe cowboys he’s a superstar and better than the rest .. let him play long minutes and do what he does best ! #nrl
Panther untroubled to beat Cowboy. Certainly not a pristine display from Panther, but result was never in doubt. Panther dominated field position and possession. A little clunky in 1st game of year, but easy win nonetheless. Cowboy defended bravely. Attacking game is diabolical.
Post-game, Payten was asked about the Taumalolo move but wasn’t afraid to be critical of the Cowboys’ biggest star.
“The last try was from Jase not putting pressure on him from marker,” he said. “They’re the efforts I’m talking about him improving that will make him the best forward in the game.
“That’s not just him but there are players in the middle of the park that need to move better and whether or not we give away possession like we did tonight, that’s a non-negotiable for.”
Taumalolo is on a massive 10-year $10m contact in 2017.
The Cowboys were thrashed by last seasons’ beaten grand finalists.Source:Getty Images
And Payten said he doesn’t want the star to burn out.
“I’ve said it several times, Jase is contracted here for seven years, if we cook him 65 to 75 minutes a game, in three to four years, what value are we going to get out of him?” Payten said. “This is a long term decision about Jase’s health and my ambition to hold onto the job.”
Payten said for middle forwards, there are corner cut somewhere and he doesn’t want the young forwards to think cutting corners is alright.
Cronk added he loved the honesty Payten said and added “he’s damned if he do, damned he doesn’t”.
Marshall also added Payten deserved to be apraised for his comments and showing accountability to held change the culture of the club.
“You’ve got to applaud him for what he said in the press conference,” Marshall said. “It’s not about Jason Taumalolo. What it is is for the team to understand. He’s our best player and he can’t do that. So to the young guys already and as a senior player, it’s about accountability, and if you have accountability every knows what they can and can’t do and if that’s what selection is based on, he’s made that pretty clear.”
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