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Chad Townsend has no intention to leave Cronulla before the end of the season despite signing a three-year deal with the Cowboys from 2022 on Wednesday.

The premiership-winning halfback welled up as he explained that long-term security for his young family was the main factor in a difficult decision to depart his junior club.

Townsend, 30, denied that John Morris's abrupt exit as Sharks coach last week had any influence on his call to pass on activating a contract option and remain at the club next year.

"I'm not looking to go to the Cowboys early. Not at all," Townsend said.

"I've met with Heady – [Cronulla interim coach] Josh Hannay – this morning and said to him, 'Mate, my focus is purely on playing well this year'. It's in my best interests for my career and for our club to win some games and play finals.

"My decisions and my life are based around what's best for me and my family. And that's it. I understand people might say that [Townsend left because Morris is gone], but it's not the truth."

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Shaun Johnson has been named to return from an Achilles injury via the interchange in Saturday's clash with the Bulldogs, so Hannay will have three top-line playmakers vying for two halves positions with Townsend and Matt Moylan the incumbents.

"[Hannay] has got some decisions to make and those decisions are out of my control. I feel like I'm playing really good football at the moment," Townsend said.

North Queensland are keen on securing 20-year-old Broncos half Tom Dearden to combine with Townsend, but the veteran hasn't spoken to the youngster.

"I've only seen what's been documented in the media," Townsend said.

"He's a good young kid, he's got a pretty good kicking game and he's off-contract like a lot of other halves are."

A Yarrawarrah Tigers product, Townsend debuted for Cronulla in 2011 and has played 141 games in black, white and blue – broken up by a stint at the Warriors in 2014-15.

He expected to exercise his option to remain a Shark – and had until round 13 to do so – but "couldn't refuse" the Cowboys' proposal for the sake of his loved ones.

"It makes me a bit emotional to think about, to be honest," said Townsend, who believes his post-football career opportunities - potentially in the media - will come in Sydney.

"I've got three young kids at home and it was tough. That's why I made the decision to put them first. I've loved my time here and I've made a lot of good friends and a lot of good memories.

"My intention was always to stay. I met with the Cowboys a little while ago, a few weeks ago, and they put a really good offer to me straight away and one that we thought about very deeply.

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"When I think about it, I've been a part of the most successful era of [Cronulla's] history. To be a part of that premiership-winning team, it's still a 'pinch me' moment now. I used to sit on the hill when I was a kid and wave my flag around.

"It gives me goosebumps now thinking about that. There will be a time where I finish up playing and I'll be back here and I'll probably be sitting on that hill again with my young fella watching the game."

Townsend kept negotiations "hush-hush" – even blanking a text from North Queensland star and good mate Valentine Holmes – until he'd informed his Sharks teammates of his decision.

And he met face-to-face with incoming Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon, having previously spoken on the phone, to deliver the news on Tuesday.

"[Fitzgibbon] said to me that I was a part of his plans for next year and he wanted to coach me. He'd heard great things about me and I really appreciated him saying that," Townsend said.

"He completely understood that my decision was around the security of my family, which in my current contract at the Sharks I have a player option for next season and then the following season was the club's option.

"This deal allowed me to have complete control over my future and my destiny."

Part of the allure of heading to Townsville was playing under Todd Payten.

"I met him a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed the way he seems like a straight shooter," Townsend said.

"I've seen some of his press conferences and he's really direct with what he expects. And when people don't meet standards, he lets them know. We saw what he spoke about with Jason Taumalolo and what he expects of him.

"That's what you want from a coach. You want honesty and someone who doesn't tell you what you want to know [but] what you need to know."

Payten is rapt to have landed Townsend's signature.

"We have made no secret of our intentions to secure a senior half after we lost our captain Michael Morgan to retirement," Payten said.

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"We were looking for a composed organising halfback who can steer the team around the park and I believe we have found that in Chad.

"He is a gifted kicker of the football, tackles well and is a strong voice on the field, which were three areas we highlighted when entering the market for a half."

Senior Cowboys prop Jordan McLean added that Townsend's experience would be invaluable.

"His game-management is very good. I'm not sure what's happening with Drinky [Scott Drinkwater], but hopefully, he stays and those two would be a good [halves] pairing," McLean said.

Centre Murray Taulagi said the No.7 would bring "a bit of structure around the team, just someone who can direct us around the park a bit better".

Cronulla CEO Dino Mezzatesta praised Townsend's commitment.

"Chad has been a great servant of our club, shown great character throughout his career and has assured me and everyone at the Sharks he is committed to getting the job done and making the 2021 season a successful one," Mezzatesta said.

"He has put family first with his decision to take up this opportunity, which we fully appreciate and understand, and we wish him well with his future both as an NRL player and beyond."