WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 28: Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys looks dejected after a Dragons try during the round 15 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the North Queensland Cowboys at WIN Stadium on June 28, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

There is a host of factors you could credit for North Queensland's stunning turn-around in 2022, though potentially none more than the revitalised performances of Jason Taumalolo in the middle of the park.

Two years ago, people praised Taumalolo for his metre-eating ability, constantly running for over 250 metres due to his his ability to run like a front-rower, yet possessed a fullback's footwork and the speed to boot.

But it wasn't sustainable.

Last season's introduction of Todd Payten to the side saw some gelling issues, as Payten opted to reduce the lock forward's minutes in a bid to extend his career.

A ship is safest at a port, but it isn't what they're built for.

Instead of reducing Taumalolo's minutes, Payten changed the way Taumalolo played in 2022, shifting from a human battering ram to a ball-playing lock in a move that may have changed the trajectory of his career.

While he might be a Victor Radley or Cameron Murray when it comes to his ball play, his hulking frame automatically attracts multiple defenders, so the ability to take the ball to the line and then play out the back is astronomical in terms of the space it creates for those x-factor players.

The two-time Dally M winner credits the increased input from his teammates as the reason why he's suddenly freed up to ball-play.

"I knew I always had a passing game but I've just never used it as much as I have been this year," Taumalolo told the AAP.

"To finally get to use it and play the way we've been playing, how Toddy wants to play with moving the ball around, it's definitely helped instead of having to take the tough carries every time.

"Everyone seems to be playing well and wanting to do the hard yards. So that has me doing a bit more ball-playing."

NRL Rd 10 - Wests Tigers v Cowboys
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 15: Reuben Cotter of the Cowboys looks on during the round 10 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, on May 15, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Reuben Cotter has been massive for the middle forward, his constant yardage as well as his quick play-the-balls really taking the pressure off Taumalolo to be 'the guy' for the Cowboys, and no longer must he carry the weight of the side on his shoulders, something recruit Chad Townsend has been impressed by.

"It's enabled his game to be at his best," Townsend told AAP.

"Not only is he big and powerful and breaks tackles, but he can actually play with the ball and pass and be that link man in the middle.

"We've used him in a few different roles this year where he's had a bit more ball-playing and he can do it all.

"He's unbelievable to play with and I think he's playing some some outstanding footy for us."

While he now only averages just over 150 metres a game, once thing you can be assured of - Jason Taumalolo won't be going anywhere anytime soon.