Cowboys coach Todd Payten doesn't regret criticising Jason Taumalolo after Saturday's 24-0 loss to Penrith and insists they share a strong, "honest" relationship.
Payten's first post-match media conference as a full-time NRL coach included a frank assessment of Taumalolo's "defensive movements" as he explained his call to restrict the marquee lock to 51 minutes.
He highlighted the 27-year-old's lack of pressure from marker before one Panthers try and said he won't accept him "cutting corners" as it sets a bad example for North Queensland's young forwards.
While some pundits have queried Payten's approach to his star player, the mentor stood firm after announcing an unchanged team for Saturday's match against the Dragons at Townsville's QCB Stadium.
"I've known [Taumalolo] for seven years," Payten said.
"I had constant dialogue with him over the last few days. He knows he can be honest with me too. It's a two-way street and things are fine."
Overall, the former Warriors interim coach believes his post-match comments were "well-received" by the squad.
Every try from round 1
"They know how I operate; I'm pretty black-and-white," he said.
"It's not something that came out of the blue; it's been consistent feedback for our whole group, not just from me but from all our coaching staff. I expect us to respond with a good performance."
The clash against St George Illawarra has an extra layer of interest with the Dragons announcing on Tuesday they'd snared Cowboys prop Francis Molo from 2022 on a three-year deal.
"I'm very comfortable that we did everything in our powers to keep him at the club," Payten said of the 26-year-old.
"It was just an opportunity for him too hard to knock back. Considering where he started with this club to where he's got himself to now, he's done it the hard way and he deserves every opportunity that's in front of him at the moment.
"I just expect him to rip in for us for the rest of the year, which I have no doubt he will. He leaves our club being a good servant and he goes with our blessing."
Despite their failure to trouble the scorer against Penrith, Payten said he wasn't tempted at all to make changes to the team.
"There's an opportunity to play at home in front of our members and supporters and do them justice," he added.
"Across the board, we weren't great, so I couldn't just drop one or two. They were hurting and everyone's keen. With the way that we trained today, there was a real attention to detail."
NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets.