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Emotional Todd Payten gets misty-eyed as he praises Cowboys for ‘putting pride back into the club’

A very emotional Todd Payten gets misty-eyed as he praises the Cowboys for ‘putting pride back into the club’ after a remarkable season and warns NRL rivals North Queensland: ‘We WANT to be back here again’

  • REPORT: Parramatta beat Cowboys 24-20 in penultimate thriller
  • Todd Payten is proud of the Cowboys players for a remarkable season
  • North Queensland had never finished higher than 13th in the last four years
  • In Payten’s second season, they won 17 games and finished third in the standings
  • The Cowboys led Parramatta by eight points midway through the second half
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Todd Payten praised his players for ‘putting pride back into the shirt and into the club’ and vowed the Cowboys will be contenders again in the future after a ‘disappointing’ loss to Parramatta.

North Queensland’s remarkable season ended on Friday night when the Cowboys were beaten 24-20 at home by the Eels in the preliminary final.

The hosts led by eight points midway through the second half at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, but two quick tries from Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Maika Sivo turned Parramatta’s way.

The Cowboys lost 24-20 to the Eels at home in their preliminary final on Friday night
The Cowboys lost 24-20 to the Eels at home in their preliminary final on Friday night

The Cowboys lost 24-20 to the Eels at home in their preliminary final on Friday night

The Eels reached a first Grand Final since 2009, pipping the Cowboys to a first appearance in the NRL’s biggest game for five years.

But Payten was full of praise for his players.

‘I have been proud of our boys for a long time. Yes, absolutely,” he said in an emotional post-match press conference.

“We’re putting some respect back into the place.”

Todd Payten was visibly emotional in his postgame press conference
Todd Payten was visibly emotional in his postgame press conference

Todd Payten was visibly emotional in his postgame press conference

The Cowboys lost to Melbourne in the 2017 Grand Final, but finished 13th the following year. Back-to-back 14th places followed before North Queensland slipped to 15th last year in Payten’s first season in charge.

In his second year in Townsville, however, the former Canberra and Wests star has produced a remarkable turnaround, with the Cowboys winning 17 games to finish third in the table.

“Losing tonight was never part of the plan,” Payten said when asked if he expected his team to make it as far as they did.

– It wasn’t meant for us to reach the final. We weren’t supposed to get out of the bottom four and we weren’t supposed to make the top eight. […] But we were 25 minutes away from the grand final.’

Murray Taulagi put the Cowboys ahead by eight points early in the second half
Murray Taulagi put the Cowboys ahead by eight points early in the second half

Murray Taulagi put the Cowboys ahead by eight points early in the second half

But Maika Sivo scored the match-winning try as the Eels hit the front with 15 minutes to go
But Maika Sivo scored the match-winning try as the Eels hit the front with 15 minutes to go

But Maika Sivo scored the match-winning try as the Eels hit the front with 15 minutes to go

Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned in the first half for a high tackle
Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned in the first half for a high tackle

Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned in the first half for a high tackle

After reflecting on the Cowboys’ fairytale run to the inaugural final, Payten insisted it served as a launching pad for the club.

‘I want us to go out with our heads held high. I know them [the players] are disappointed, they really are, but we’re putting some respect back into the shirt and the club,” he said.

‘We’ve got a good foundation, if we don’t fall in love with ourselves and continue to work hard and get better, we’ll be back here again.

‘It’s hard to get here, we know, and that’s what makes the missed opportunity so disappointing, but we have an abundance of talent.’

Payten also paid tribute to Cowboys fans who stuck with the players even after four seasons of disappointing football. Queensland Country Bank Stadium was a cauldron of noise on Friday night and the entire region has been gripped by NRL fever this season.

The Cowboys finished 15th last season but won 17 games and claimed third place in Payten's second season in charge in Townsville
The Cowboys finished 15th last season but won 17 games and claimed third place in Payten's second season in charge in Townsville

The Cowboys finished 15th last season but won 17 games and claimed third place in Payten’s second season in charge in Townsville

It’s one of the parts I love about this club, he said.

‘This is the heartland of rugby league, I’m a rugby league person and they’re my people.

‘We have many children in our system who have come from this area. […] That’s why it means something to them to play for our club.

We represented the people of the north in North Queensland style.’

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