15 hours ago
North Queensland have confirmed they have signed Canberra Raiders coach Neil Henry on a five year deal from 2009.
Cowboys chief executive Peter Parr said Henry's previous experience at North Queensland would be invaluable when he officially takes over the reins.
Henry served as current coach Graham Murray's assistant at the Cowboys from 2002-06 before linking with the Raiders last season.
"The club has conducted a comprehensive and thorough process in finalising his appointment," Parr told reporters in Townsville.
"Neil is a high quality coach who understands our club and the north Queensland community.
"He has served his apprenticeship.
"We have no doubt he is the best person for the position and he has the necessary attributes to take this club forward."
The North Queensland hierarchy told Murray before the 2008 NRL season that his contract would not be renewed next year.
Speculation has since been rife over who would fill Murray's shoes.
Rumours have also surfaced that Murray may not see out the season after North Queensland slumped to a 0-3 win-loss season start.
But Parr today confirmed Murray would finish the season as coach.
"We are quite happy that this decision ends the speculation," Parr said.
Henry was tipped to take over after he exercised a get-out clause to gain an early release from the final year of his Raiders contract earlier this week.
Meanwhile, North Queensland rubber stamped Tonga's arrival next year.
He has joined the Cowboys on a deal reportedly worth a massive $1.4 million.
Thurston and Tonga were teammates at the Bulldogs in 2004 when the club won their last premiership.
In the same year Tonga made his debut for Queensland and Australia and scored 18 tries in 27 appearances for the Bulldogs.
A knee injury wrecked the latter stages of his 2005 season - the year he played the last of his seven Tests for Australia.
The explosive centre believes playing alongside Thurston and being coached by Henry will help him break back into the representative arena after a three-year absence.
Tonga is in his fifth year at the Bulldogs.