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Heartbreak fuel for 2023 Cowboys


The bulk of their young talent are signed to fresh, long-term deals.

Murray Taulagi, Scott Drinkwater and Griffin Neame all inked new deals in recent weeks, reinforcing the belief the squad has in the club’s direction.

Veteran prop Jordan McLean is also set to re-sign, and with halves Tom Dearden and Townsend both signed until the end of 2024, the Cowboys can build a team around a group of players who they know are staying for the long haul.

Mid-season recruit Luciano Leilua said the match, much like his season, was a roller coaster.

Leilua joined the Cowboys after a mid-season switch from Wests Tigers and while his former side finished last, he came one game away from the final two.

Leilua scores in the Cowboys’ loss last Friday against Parramatta.Credit:Getty Images

In Friday’s clash his co-captain Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned in the first half, they locked the game up at 12-12 on halftime, a rocking 25,000 fans spurred them on late in the contest, but two tries in seven minutes from the visitors crushed their hopes.

Leilua said the result was tough but his coach has already set the tone for next year.

“(Todd) said we let that game go, and that we’re a better team to let a lead of 20-12 slip,” Leilua said. “Be angry but use it as a fuel for next year.”

Payten’s straightforward but blunt approach has been a welcome sign for 26-year-old Leilua, who believes he’s in career best form since his switch to the Cowboys.

The dial now turns towards to time off in the off-season, then doing it all again. Leilua is confident in the platform they’ve established after flipping the script in 2022.

“We just got to stay humble and make sure we don’t pump our tires up,” he said.

“Get ready for a big season next year and it’s obviously disappointing in the way we finished but we let that game go. It won’t happen again.”


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