North Queensland Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston knows the club has a gem on their hands with new coach Todd Payten.

North Queensland Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston knows the club has a gem on their hands with new coach Todd Payten.

“Anyone that you talk to about Toddy says he’s got a great football brain and understands the game very well,” he told Wide World of Sports.

The New Zealand Warriors fought tooth and nail to keep Payten, 42, after he shone in an interim role for the club during their most challenging season ever in 2020.

“He’s changed a lot of things within the club; from coaching staff to high performance, and the playing group as well. I’m very optimistic about what he will bring to the club.”

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“The biggest thing at the moment is keeping our boys on the paddock which we haven’t been able to do the last three or four years.”

“I truly believe our team will improve with Toddy at the helm.”

Cultures are set to collide in Townsville, Saturday 20th February. Secure your seats at https://tickets.nrl.com/allstars

Payten has already brought fresh idea to the club, including a plan to reduce the minutes for Jason Taumalolo to maximise his effectiveness – a move Thurston backs.

“It’s great thinking from Toddy, and he [Taumalolo] always rips and tears but his efforts could have an even greater impact for the team in shorter stints,” he said.

“A lot of teams are game-planning to tire him out, he’s just a beast – I look forward to watching him play every time.

“I think if the players around him can lift as well, then that will allow them to be able to do that.”

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Thurston identified Tom Gilbert, who will miss the first quarter of the season with a broken fibula, and flying winger Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow as key men to watch as part of the new Payten regime.

He also said Reece Robson and Valentine Holmes would improve with full pre-seasons under their belt.

“I’ve been really impressed with Daejarn Asi as well. He’s got really good hand-eye coordiantion and really silky hands, the ability to find a pass under pressure,” Thurston said.

The Keebra Park graduate played five games last year and is considered a big part of the future in Townsville – he’s also among the reserves to the Maori All Stars tomorrow night.

“I’m not exactly sure what position he’ll play, he’s a centre/five-eighth, but he’s really skilful.”

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