North Queensland Cowboys have appointed New Zealand Warriors interim boss Todd Payten as their head coach on a three-year deal beginning in 2021.

Payten, 41, was previously at the Cowboys from 2015 to 2018, helping them to a maiden NRL premiership.

A veteran of 259 NRL games as a player, Payten has been at the helm of the Warriors on an interim basis since June and reportedly turned down the full-time job.

He will replace Paul Green at the Cowboys after he stepped down in July.

"I am honoured to be appointed head coach of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys," Payten said.

"I'm excited for the opportunity which lies ahead for myself and my family. Returning to this club, town and region is something which makes us extremely happy.

"I see a huge amount of upside within the Cowboys organisation and it is my job to see that eventuate into results on the field.

"Developing the players within the club to be good footballers and good men along with playing a style of football our members and supporters can be proud of will be my main focus."

The Cowboys have endured a difficult 2020 season, winning just three of 16 games.

Cowboys chairman Lewis Ramsay backed Payten, saying: "We went through a thorough process and were thrilled with the large number of exceptional candidates who expressed interest in being the next head coach of our club.

"We are delighted to bring Todd back to North Queensland and believe he is the right choice to lead our club into an exciting new chapter.

"His strong leadership abilities, the importance he places on culture and communication and the confidence he has in continuing to develop our playing group were all major factors in choosing Todd as our next head coach."