Outgoing coach Paul Green prepared North Queensland for one last time on Sunday, having known for four days that he would be leaving the club within 24 hours of their trip to Penrith.
The Cowboys confirmed the "mutual agreement" for Green to depart the club on Monday morning, after the board told him last Wednesday he was not part of their plans beyond this season.
Green exits as the longest-serving coach in the club's history and will always be celebrated for the historic 2015 premiership in his second season at the helm.
Since the start of Johnathan Thurston's final campaign in 2018, North Queensland's winning percentage slumped to 32%, prompting the board to look elsewhere with 18 months to run on Green's contract.
Despite Cowboys management and Green's camp agreeing last week to part ways, the 47-year-old vowed to lead his injury-ravaged side against NRL leaders Penrith on Sunday.
Asi gets his first try in the NRL and the Cowboys hit the lead
"I was pretty adamant about coaching Sunday," Green said in reference to the fighting 22-10 loss to the Panthers.
"I felt it would be too much of a distraction for them, given such a short time to get ready for the game if I was to finish up straight away. So I was adamant about wanting to coach yesterday.
"I was glad I did, I was proud of the way the boys played even though we lost yesterday.
Green leaves the Cowboys
"I think they showed spirit and it was good to see some young guys stand up and have a go.
"In saying that I think the club's well placed given some of the young talent coming through.
"Hopefully by making this decision now it will allow those guys to get on with it and improve."
Every try from round 10
The early move on Green's tenure gives him and the Cowboys an all-important chance to join the NRL's ongoing game of coaching musical chairs before the music stops in 2020.
Any payout on the second half of Green's contract – believed to be worth more than $800,000 when he re-signed in 2018 – will be carried on the Cowboys' football department cap.
He is the third coach to be moved on in the past month following the abrupt ends to the tenures of Dean Pay at Canterbury and Stephen Kearney at the Warriors.
But with a premiership and grand final on his résumé, Green is expected to be among the most sought-after men in the game, particularly with Anthony Seibold under pressure at Brisbane and Green boasting strong ties to Red Hill.
Green confirmed he would be ready to jump straight back into the coaching fire soon enough as he exited Cowboys HQ on Monday.
"I'll take some time, take a break. Clear my head and decide what's next," he said.
"Whilst my time coaching the Cowboys has come to an end, my time as a head coach is not. I'll be looking for an opportunity at some stage."
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Assistant coach Josh Hannay, along with deputy David Tangata-Toa, will take charge for the remainder of the season as the Cowboys "undertake a thorough recruitment process" for a long-term successor.
Serious injuries to captain Michael Morgan and star recruit Valentine Holmes have hampered the club's 2020 campaign, which sits at 3-7 with heavyweights Manly and Canberra looming over the next fortnight.
By any measure the Cowboys have underperformed since their surprise 2017 grand final run.
Having been at the helm since 2014 and overseen an unprecedented rise for the one-time perennial battlers, Green leaves with pride in his efforts over seven seasons.
"Some of the guys have come in as kids and have started my coaching relationship with them when they were just kids," he said.
Episode 12 - Green departs, Mansour joins Inside The NRL
"I've seen them grow to become fathers, husbands and that's the most rewarding part of being a coach, having the ability to influence people in a positive way.
"We have some terrific young players coming through our system which will set up the club for further success in the future.
"I'd also like to thank all of those who aided in delivering the club’s first premiership to the North Queensland community - being a part of that historical season is something I will always treasure."