Johnathan Thurston says newly appointed coach Todd Payten and captain Michael Morgan can revive the Cowboys in 2021.
The 2015 premiership winner was on a five-person committee that interviewed the four candidates to be the next full-time Cowboys coach after Paul Green, with former Titans coach John Cartwright, current North Queensland interim coach Josh Hannay and England mentor Shaun Wane making the shortlist.
Payten, who is doing a superb job with the Warriors, got the nod and Thurston said that while all the candidates were impressive, the 2005 Wests Tigers premiership winner had all the right attributes.
A veteran of 259 NRL games, Payten was once the Cowboys under 20s coach and an assistant coach to Green before moving to the Warriors.
"I was a part of the second part of the process with the four candidates that came in, and we had to put [the recommendation] to the board and the board decided to make Todd the next coach," Thurston said.
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"Todd has got a rapport with the players and as assistant coach to Greeny he has learned a lot.
"He had an incredible career himself and is doing a wonderful job with the Warriors as a coach so it is a start of a new chapter for the Cowboys.
"Todd gets a lot of player input and is a very good listener and takes that on board.
"I think that is really important with the next generation of players that are coming through because they are very opinionated and vocal.
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"He is not afraid to make the tough calls as well and that is what you need in a head coach."
The Cowboys are 14th on the ladder and have not played finals football since 2017. In that season they reached the grand final.
Thurston would not have a bar of any talk of a "rebuild" and said the squad was good enough to perform much better than they have been.
"I have never been part of a rebuild. I don't like looking at a rebuild because it is not part of my nature or DNA," Thurston said.
"I believe the roster that we have got can be better than where they are situated on the ladder without a doubt.
"We have got an incredible bunch of young players coming through and we have already seen that with Hamiso [Tabuai-Fidow] and Reece Robson at nine, and we have got a really good experienced group as well."
Morgan has struggled to find his best form since Thurston retired at the end of 2018 and due to injury has only played six games this season, but his former skipper said he should be retained as captain.
"It has been unfortunate for Morgo' but I do believe he is the right man to be captain of the club," Thurston said.
"He is well respected by the playing group and the staff and is starting to find his voice now which is what you need.
"The injuries he's had over the last couple of years haven't kept him on the field and that has been a big problem for the Cowboys the last couple of years, the injuries, but whoever comes in you expect them to get the job done."
Thurston, who is also the JT Academy managing director, was speaking at the launch of the JT Connect employment program in the Logan area at Marsden State High School.
[Todd] is doing a wonderful job with the Warriors ... so it is a start of a new chapter for the CowboysJohnathan Thurston on the appointment of Todd Payten
In partnership with the Deadly Choices' Indigenous health campaign, the program encourages the youth of Logan to believe in themselves and have the courage and confidence to pursue employment.
That academy work is keeping Thurston busy and he said he was unsure whether he would have any role with the Cowboys in 2021.
"I'm pretty busy with the Academy my focus and my work with Channel Nine so I will wait and see what opportunities arise at the Cowboys with the playing group," he said.
"I will have to speak to the CEO, coach and footy manager about that so we will just wait and see."