Todd Payten has been unveiled as the next North Queensland Cowboys coach with the club formally announcing his signature on a three-year deal from 2021 onwards on Friday.
Payten will become the 10th coach in the club's history after Josh Hannay took over from their longest-serving and premiership-winning coach Paul Green as an interim coach in July.
The 41-year-old edged Hannay, former Titans coach John Cartwright and England coach Shaun Wane to the job after spending four seasons at the Cowboys from 2015.
Payten was an assistant to Green during their maiden premiership win and oversaw the club's under-20s program which featured players like Kalyn Ponga, Viliame Kikau and Brandon Smith.
He joined the Warriors as an assistant coach to Stephen Kearney ahead of the 2019 season and became the interim when Kearney was sacked earlier this year.
The 41-year-old has guided the Warriors through courageous, yet disruptive circumstances this season with the squad relocating to Australia in May.
Payten, who knocked back an offer to lead the Warriors next season citing family reasons last month, said he was honoured to get the Cowboys gig.
"I’m excited for the opportunity which lies ahead for myself and my family. Returning to this club, town and region is something which makes us extremely happy," he said.
"I see a huge amount of upside within the Cowboys organisation and it is my job to see that eventuate into results on the field.
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"Developing the players within the club to be good footballers and good men along with playing a style of football our members and supporters can be proud of will be my main focus."
As a player, he appeared in 259 NRL games for the Raiders, Roosters and Wests Tigers, winning a premiership in 2005 with the Tigers.
He coached the Wests Tigers to a grand final victory in the 2012 National Youth Championship and another finals appearance in 2013 before he progressed to an assistant coach role with the Tigers NRL side in 2014, then moving to the Cowboys the following season.
"We went through a thorough process and were thrilled with the large number of exceptional candidates who expressed interest," Cowboys chairman Lewis Ramsay said.
"We are delighted to bring Todd back to North Queensland and believe he is the right choice to lead our club into an exciting new chapter.
"His strong leadership abilities, the importance he places on culture and communication and the confidence he has in continuing to develop our playing group were all major factors in choosing Todd as our next head coach."
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Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel described Payten as "one of the best young coaches in the NRL".
"Todd has served his apprenticeship over many years, firstly at the Wests Tigers, here in North Queensland and finally at the Warriors," Reibel said.
"He also understands here at the Cowboys we are more than just a rugby league club, he appreciates we are a community-focused club which brings the whole of North Queensland together."
The Warriors issued a statement on Friday to say Payten would remain focused on their ninth-placed team for the rest of the season as they mount a late charge to make the finals.
"Todd and I have spoken and nothing has changed," said Warriors CEO Cameron George.
He really deserves the opportunity to be a head coach, I would've liked it to be at the Warriors.Kodi Nikorima
"He is doing a terrific job with our team and we’re proud of what he, the players and the staff have been achieving. I know Todd is as committed and focused as ever to fulfilling his role with us.
"As a club we’re pleased for him that he has secured his future and that’s he’s able to take his family back to Australia but all that matters for him right now is ensuring the Vodafone Warriors are well prepared to face the Eels this weekend."
Payten addressed the Warriors side in the morning before the announcement was official.
Warriors playmaker Kodi Nikorima said it was good news for Payten and his family and congratulated him before the squad shifted their focus to the Eels on Sunday.
"I think he really deserves the opportunity to be a head coach, I would've liked it to be at the Warriors but it wasn't meant to be," Nikorima said.
"It hadn't been a distraction, he's his own man and we knew a couple of weeks ago he wasn't going to take the Warriors job.
"They appointed Nathan Brown not long after that so there are no issues with the group."