John Cartwright is focusing his attention on a return to the head coaching ranks at North Queensland even though a vacancy has opened up closer to home at St George Illawarra.
The Manly assistant coach has also ruled out reuniting with Trent Barrett in 2021 after working under the incoming Canterbury coach during his stint at the Sea Eagles before Des Hasler returned to the helm at the start of last season.
Cartwright, who was Gold Coast's head coach from their foundation in 2007 until the late in the 2014 season, is interested in the Cowboys, a club which he already has a strong connection, following Paul Green’s abrupt departure last month.
St George Illawarra now also have a coaching vacancy following Paul McGregor’s announcement on Thursday that this round would be his last in charge but Cartwright's gaze is in a northerly direction.
"I have ambitions to coach again, I haven’t put that to the side," Cartwright said on Friday.
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"But out of respect to Manly I won’t be speaking about this in any great detail."
Cartwright has always aspired to return to being a NRL head coach but he says he hasn’t applied for every position as he wants the right fit for himself.
The 55-year-old former Kangaroos back-rower did not apply for the Warriors job earlier this year, when Stephen Kearney was sacked mid-season with Nathan Brown last week confirmed as his replacement for 2021.
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Cartwright has a firm background with the workings of the Cowboys. He joined the club in the 2015 pre-season as an assistant to Green, helping them to their maiden premiership later that year.
The Cowboys have said they won’t provide a running commentary on candidates but Cartwright is believed to be a strong contender to get the job.
"The process of selecting a new head coach is ongoing," a club spokesman said.
North Queensland officials have stated they will not rush into announcing Green’s successor, with former Broncos and Panthers head coach Anthony Griffin and Warriors interim coach Todd Payten also in the running.
England head coach Shaun Wane is no longer seen as an option after he extended his deal to coach the national team until the end of 2022.
After helping to win a premiership with the Roosters in 2002 alongside Ricky Stuart, Cartwright helped make the Gold Coast competitive after guiding them from their foundation year of 2007.
The former Panthers forward spent eight years there taking the Titans to the finals twice, including the 2010 preliminary final where they lost to the Roosters.
Cartwright has also been NSW City Origin coach, NSW Blues assistant and Australia assistant coach.