Rugby league legend Wally Lewis says he was left “completely confused” by Cowboys coach Todd Payten’s handling of former Dally M Medallist Jason Taumalolo.

Payten created headlines early on in the season when he made a concerted effort to limit the 28-year-old’s minutes, saying the club wanted to be “mindful of his body and work rate”.

READ MORE: Melbourne and Manly cop fines after trainers’ involvement in scuffle

After a frustrating season which saw the Cowboys finish second-last on the ladder with just seven wins, Lewis questioned the merits of limiting the side’s best player, before moving him out of his preferred lock position to the backrow edge.

“I really couldn’t see why he (Payten) shifted Taumalolo. I was completely confused by that,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“Even in the difficult times at the Broncos, Darren Lockyer wasn’t moved, Allan Langer wasn’t shifted.

“You build the base of a team around your champion performers, and I thought that should have been how North Queensland presented their season.

READ MORE: Great white shark breaches in middle of surfing world title finals

“It was very difficult to understand. Perhaps I wasn’t close enough to it and couldn’t see a number of other players couldn’t be placed in those positions.

“To see him in that position left me a bit confused, I’ve got to say.”

Lewis’ point was echoed by Broncos great Sam Thaiday, who implored the Cowboys to build their team around Taumalolo next season.

“I’m unsure how long Taumalolo’s contract is left at the Cowboys, but that shouldn’t reflect on how they play him now,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“I think they should play him this season and get the best out of him this season. Next season is not promised and the season after that is not promised.

“You build your team around your best players, and I think Taumalolo in that 13 position is at his best, playing off the back of quick play-the-balls, wrecking and rampaging through the middle.

“We touched on David Fifita and I said I’d love to see Fifita play in that lock role and have free rein… I’d love to see Taumalolo have free rein on the field as well.”

For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!