The North Queensland Cowboys have dismissed reports claiming there is a rift between captain Jason Taumalolo and coach Todd Payten, describing the talk as "outside noise".
The Cowboys are priced at 9/2 to finish in the top eight of the NRL in 2022 and the form of Taumalolo will be key to them getting there.
Taumalolo had a troubled 2021 campaign as a number of injuries restricted him to just 15 appearances for the Cowboys.
The 28-year-old then played 51 minutes in the round-one loss to Canterbury but looked to be some way off the top form he has produced in the past.
That has kicked off reports that all is not well in the dressing room and there could be a rift between the player and his coach. However such talk has been shot down by Cowboys forward Jordan McLean this week.
"I think it's pretty silly to be honest," McLean told reporters on Wednesday. "Hulky (Taumalolo) loves it up here and him and Toddy have a great relationship, it's just typical outside noise.
"Maybe if we win last week none of this talk is here, so our job is to go out there and win each week."
Taumalolo has been struggling with a hamstring injury in the build-up to the new season and did not get any trial minutes under his belt.
That could explain his less than impressive performance against the Bulldogs but Payten is backing him to come good.
"He's got a point to prove I guess," Payten said. "There's been a lot of conjecture around him and his involvement in the club, and I like when people poke the bear."