New Warriors favourite as Payten eyes top Aussie job
North Queensland maintain a decision on a head coach announcement could still be a month away despite Todd Payten revealing he had knocked back the job at the New Zealand Warriors because his wife's father is undergoing chemotherapy.
But in yet another twist former Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is now considered the new favourite to coach the Warriors next season.
In a stunning development, Warriors interim coach Payten revealed on Monday night that he had turned down the position made vacant by sacked coach Steve Kearney last week.
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In an emotional revelation, Payten said now was not the right time to take on the position, but he added that he remained in contention to coach the Cowboys.
News Corp Australia can confirm that North Queensland officials were aware that Payten had said no to the Warriors offer.
But sources said that does not necessarily mean Payten has a free ride to replace Paul Green.
North Queensland maintain that it has not gone as far as drawing up a short list, despite reports it's now down to three including Payten, Brown and Melbourne Storm assistant Jason Ryles.
It was understood Brown had previously withdrawn his interest for the Warriors position but that was before Payten knocked back the opportunity.
Brown is close mates with Warriors recruitment boss Peter O'Sullivan and they talk almost daily.
News Corp Australia was also told the Cowboys are still in confidential discussions with a host of high profile candidates that would "surprise" many.
Payten confirmed the job at the Warriors was his but he couldn't accept it due to personal reasons.
"I had an interview maybe 10 or 14 days ago," Payten told Fox Sports' NRL 360.
"I had been offered the job last Monday. I informed the club I am going to turn it down. It just wasn't the right opportunity for my family and myself at this time.
"It was not an easy decision. It is something I agonised over for a few days but in the end it was the first time I have put my family first in a decision."
Payten then revealed his wife's father was sick.
"Look, not many people know this but my wife's father has just started chemotherapy," Payten continued.
"So that was at the forefront of our minds. Obviously with the COVID-thing for her to travel back and forth is very, very difficult.
"That was a big part of it, and there are some other issues I don't want to make public.
"But that's my decision. I have made it. It was tough for everyone. The club was shocked and disappointed. But moving forward my focus is on getting this side prepared as well as I can from week to week."
Payten said he still had a year to run on his assistant's role at the Warriors but that was not to say he was not interested in coaching the Cowboys.
"There is another opportunity that is on the table but I don't want to play that out in public," Payten said.
"That is the Cowboys."
Payten said he was "not in any process at the moment, they are just aware of my interest".
The Cowboys board is considered conservative and is not expected to rush into any decision despite Payten's revelation.
Originally published as New Warriors favourite as Payten eyes top Aussie job