The 19-year-old scored a hat-trick in just his seventh first-grade outing, as the Cowboys secured a 38-12 win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
Following Nanai’s outstanding performance, Payten gave an insight into contract talks between the club and Nanai’s management, saying he believes the Cowboys are “the right club for him”.
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“We’ve had conversations with his management and the management have asked us to hold off until round six, and we’re just fulfilling their wishes,” Payten told reporters.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about us keeping him. I know that this is the right club for him.
“He’s a local junior and this is why the Cowboys were put into the competition, to give a pathway to our kids in North Queensland to play NRL. Fingers crossed that we can work something out.
“He’s got some ability, and he’s still learning. He’s only been 19 for about two or three weeks, so I’m really excited about what he can offer our club, and he makes us a better team when he’s playing.
“He makes the players around him better too, so for a kid at his age to look as comfortable as he does at times is exciting.”
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While Nanai confirmed that he might be the game’s worst-kept secret after his brilliant performance, Payten said he’d have been on rival clubs’ radars before Sunday’s outing.
“Most clubs have smart recruitment and understand what ability he has,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say he’s jumped out of the ground, but he’s been high in schoolboy (football) for a number of years before he’s hit first grade, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to other clubs.”