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Cowboys centre Murray Taulagi.

Cowboys coach Todd Payten is confident a deal to keep Murray Taulagi will be finalised in the coming days with the outside back poised to be rewarded for his most consistent season.

Taulagi had reportedly attracted interest from rival teams but he is set to re-sign at the club with whom he made his debut in 2019.

"We have a high opinion of Murray here, he's playing some good footy at the moment and contract negotiations are going well from our end," Payten said on Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm hopeful we can get it over the line in the next couple of days."

Having played centre for the first time this year in last weekend's gritty 20-16 loss to the Storm, Taulagi has retained the No.3 jersey for Friday night's Queensland derby against the Broncos.

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Primarily a winger up to this point in the NRL, the 22-year-old has now played 26 games and missed just one match so far in 2021.

After the Cowboys' meritorious effort against Melbourne, Payten can sense that his team now realises how dangerous it can be.

"We've been really strong at training for our last month. We've got some belief. We've proved to ourselves that if we play the right way, our game is good enough to beat anyone," Payten said.

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"There are no excuses for us not putting in a performance this week because of what we've been able to prove to ourselves. Playing the right way means that we spend energy to gain energy.

"We've proved to ourselves that we're not going to die from fatigue or exhaustion at any point throughout the game. So it's a step forward for us and we can grow a leg from it."

Halfback Tom Dearden will face his former Brisbane teammates having left Red Hill after round 12 to join North Queensland.

"[Dearden] hasn't been any different than any other week. He's probably been a little more vocal in our video previews," Payten said.

"He understands what they plan to do and their structures, so he's tipped up the boys in those meetings. Out on the field, he's been no different. I expect him to be super excited.

"I guess he knows them pretty well and they know him pretty well. I'm really interested to see how he goes."

Payten also confirmed that utility Ben Hampton would return from a pectoral injury via the interchange. Hampton was settling into the halfback role before suffering the setback during round eight.

"I'm confident in him. He's completed everything that we've asked of him in the last three weeks," Payten said.

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"He's almost been full training, so at a pinch, if it was a finals game last week, we could have rushed him in and played.

"But given we've still got a bit of footy to go and a duty of care, we just decided not to go down that path."

Meanwhile, prop Francis Molo said the "rivalry" between the Cowboys and Broncos is still alive and well.

"Both teams get for up for it, the local derby," Molo said.

"I'm sure Broncs will be ready to go against us. They went well against Penrith last week. I'm sure they'll be looking to back that up.

"We've just got to have the same attitude as we did last week against the Storm and hopefully get the win this time."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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