Jason Taumalolo, minutes, stats, press conference, Todd Payten, North Queensland Cowboys vs Canberra Raiders, video

Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo awkwardly beat away a question about increasing his minutes — while sitting right next to coach Todd Payten — in Saturday’s post-game press conference.

The Cowboys stunned the Raiders 26-6 and according to Chad Townsend, Taumalolo was “the best on the field.”

Taumalolo admitted in his own post-game interview with Fox League that he had a “point to prove” because of all the “outside noise” surrounding his performances and place within the team.

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“Obviously it’s a result-driven game, the more wins you get the less people talk about you. But we haven’t been getting any results the last few years and obviously with that comes a lot of outside noise,” he said.

“I came in today, given a lot was said, I had a point to prove coming into tonight and I was just happy I could do my job.”

Raiders Press Conference | 03:10

He doubled down in the press conference saying the game was a “poke the bear moment” for him

“Last week was all about blowing out the cobwebs and trying to get the motor going again. Tonight I felt a lot better,” he said.

“Obviously with the outside noise it was a bit of a poke the bear moment for me, so I’m just happy to be out there and running freely again.”

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But he wasn’t so forthright when asked if he’s hoping to increase his minutes from 55 on Saturday to the 60s or 70s.

The 28-year-old smiled and shook his head almost in disbelief before awkwardly avoiding the answer.

“Nah, mate I don’t pick… nah the boys out there done their job and I was happy to be out there, the young ones running amok to give us older boys a bit of a rest,” he said.

A lot has been made about how Payten uses the three-time Dally M lock of the year ever since the coach revealed at the start of last season that Taumalolo would play less minutes in a bid to preserve his body for the remaining seven seasons of his 10-year deal.

Taumalolo struggled with injury last year but when he was fit he still didn’t have the same impact he had in previous seasons.

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Ex-NRL player Ben Te’o dropped a bombshell earlier in the week when he said he believes Taumalolo will end up getting an early release to move to another club.

Then Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett felt the rumor mill into overdrive when he admitted he’d be interested in Taumalolo if he was available.

The New Zealand and Tongan international was moved back to his native lock after playing prop in Round 1.

He played 55 minutes — an increase on last week’s 51 minutes — and finished with 141 running meters, two tackle busts and 24 tackles with zero misses. A slight improvement on last week’s 122 running meters, two tackle busts and 25 tackles.

“I thought Jase was outstanding tonight, I thought he was our best player on the field,” Taumalolo’s co-captain, Townsend said.

“I could just see the steely look he had in his eyes all week and how determined he was to come out and play well. That’s what we expect from the big fella and I’m very happy for him tonight.”

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