Cowboys slam talk of ‘sham’ coach appointment
The North Queensland Cowboys have lashed accusations the process to appoint new head coach Todd Payten was a sham and insist shattered interim leader Josh Hannay is committed to seeing out the 2020 season.
Payten was officially announced as Paul Green's successor on Friday on a three-year deal until at least 2023 which will see him become the eighth full time coach of the Cowboys.
Payten, 41, was an assistant to Green from 2015-18, a period in which the Cowboys claimed the club's first NRL premiership (2015) and lost the 2017 grand final to Melbourne, before joining the New Zealand Warriors.
Payten pipped ex-Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright, England Test mentor Shaun Wane and Hannay for the job following the final round of interviews.
But the Cowboys have addressed suggestions Payten was always the prime candidate after he knocked back an offer to remain at the Warriors beyond this season.
Payten was promoted to interim coach of the Warriors in June following the sacking of Stephen Kearney, with New Zealand offering him the role full-time in late July, around the time of Green's sacking, which he rejected.
Payten said he rejected the Warriors offer for family reasons and the Cowboys insist he was never guaranteed the North Queensland post.
"We can't control what other people might think," said Cowboys football chief Peter Parr, a member of the coach appointment committee.
"We have been consistent in the way we've gone about selecting our last two head coaches. This process was the same one that we went through when Greeny was appointed in 2013.
"There were no promises made.
"I get people are always looking to put two and two together and coming up with what they like. I can understand people mentioning that but it's simply not the case.
"Our club and the people involved aren't in a habit of wasting people's time. We don't want to waste our own time and other people's time.
"Our board was very clear that they wanted to follow this process. Everyone involved had an open mind on who would be the best possible candidate.
"It was a very difficult decision to come up with because all the candidates we interviewed were of a particularly high standard."
Payten secured the role following an impressive 90-minute interview with Cowboys chairman Lewis Ramsay, CEO Jeff Reibel, club legend Johnathan Thurston, director John Lee and Parr.
His efforts in guiding the Warriors to ninth on the NRL ladder despite being based in Australia and losing players to homesickness also helped his case.
But the appointment of Payten has rocked Hannay, who has presided over the team for the past six games since Green's departure.
Parr said Hannay, a 150-game player for the club, was committed to coaching the final four matches of the season, starting with Sunday's clash against the Dragons at Queensland Country Bank Stadium where the Cowboys will look to snap a nine-game losing streak.
"He is obviously disappointed but he is very committed to coaching the rest of the season," Parr said.
"We have every intention of finishing the season as well as we possibly can. We need him to be committed and he will be.
"Of course he would be disappointed, but that doesn't mean it will affect his mindset or the job he's doing at the moment."
Hannay is contracted to the Cowboys for 2021 but it remains unclear if he will be part of Payten's support staff or take up another role within the club.
What is certain is Payten is unlikely to have a new-look team next year, with the Cowboys' roster mostly decided as the club fights to avoid collecting this season's wooden spoon.
Parr said there was unlikely to be any significant changes to North Queensland's playing group for 2021 and Payten was aware of that.
"There won't be any changes at this point in time," he said.
"We made some decisions 12-18 months ago and invested in bringing guys to the club like Scott Drinkwater, Valentine Holmes, Esan Marsters and Reece Robson.
"We recruited those guys in the last 12 months and we want to invest in our younger players like Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Daejarn Asi, Peter Hola, Reuben Cotter and people like that.
"We've tried to bring some guys in that will add value to the squad and we've tried to ensure we maintain our good young talent which is probably as good as most clubs, we would believe."