‘All the gear but no idea’: Todd Payten should be under more pressure than any coach right now


The coach is the first thing on every fan’s list of why a team is struggling in the NRL.

Coaches come and go every season and as soon as rumours circulate that a coach might receive the axe, they’re on the back page of every paper in Australia.

The halfway point of the 2024 season has been reached and mid-year coach sackings were once rare, however recently have become frequent in rugby league.

I don’t believe there will be a mid-season firing, but Todd Payten is my top contender to be under the most pressure during the off-season.

The North Queensland Cowboys are in their fourth season of the Payten era and have won two straight games, however, their current ladder position is not even close to satisfactory.

Payten has coached North Queensland to just one finals campaign in the three seasons that he’s been at the helm of the club, including a fifteenth-place finish in 2021 and sat second last mid-way through last season.

These are not the results that are expected from a team field with quality names like Valentine Holmes, Jeremiah Nanai, Scott Drinkwater, Rueben Cotter, and Tom Dearden.

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The Cowboys arguably have the best starting thirteen in the competition, good enough to have Jason Taumalolo playing minor minutes off the bench. It seems they have all the gear but no idea.

The Cowboys currently sit tenth on the ladder and they could have a roller coaster ride ahead, which many Cowboys fans are already used to. Like last season, they will have the luck of two byes during the period of rounds 13-19.

This means that including last weekend, they will play just five games during the seven-week-long origin period, therefore four free ladder points will be obtained and possibly much needed during a complicated time for North Queensland.

Despite the origin availabilities, the Cowboys managed to do well last season during this time, however, a case can be made that it was because they were taking on other origin-riddled teams like the Panthers, Storm, and Rabbitohs.

North Queensland is somewhat fortunate again this season due to a couple of mid-year byes, however, they will take on teams who are not heavily affected by Origin as much as the clubs they faced last year during the period were.

They will come up against the Warriors and Raiders over the next two weeks, and Raiders will have Hudson Young back, as he is their only Origin player, and the Warriors were not affected by either Queensland or New South Wales.

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They then have the bye, before travelling to Penrith which will be considered a toss of the coin as both sides are restricted due to Origin 2. North Queensland then host Manly before finishing the period with a bye.

I see them finishing 1-3 through this period or 2-2 at best they will also pick up the four bye points as well.

The Origin period will influence Todd Payten’s job security.

I’m not saying he will be terminated if games aren’t won during this interval, however, if finals are missed out on, then expect trouble in Cowboy country and the next coach firing to be up North.

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