Former NRL star and two-time premiership-winner James Maloney will return to the NRL, landing his first coaching job with the North Queensland Cowboys.

The 37-year-old hung up the boots at the end of the 2023 season for good, having last played with FC Lezignan in the French Elite One Championship where he was a player-coach.

Prior to that, he had played for two seasons in the English Super League between 2020 and 2021 with the Catalans Dragons.

His NRL career before that saw him play between 2009 and 2019 with the Melbourne Storm, New Zealand Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sharks and Penrith Panthers.

A talented half, Maloney was involved in two NRL premierships, and also made 14 State of Origin appearances for New South Wales, as well as three Tests for Australia.

The Cowboys confirmed on Tuesday that he has joined Todd Payten's coaching staff on a two-year deal that will see him specialise in attack. He joins a new-look Cowboys' assistant coaching team, with Justin Morgan also making the switch to Townsville from the New Zealand Warriors at the end of 2023.

A veteran of 247 NRL appearances, Cowboys general manager of football Michael Luck said the club was excited at Maloney's arrival.

“We are excited at the prospect of the new dimension James will add to our program,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said.

“With an experienced assistant in Justin Morgan coming on board this year, we made the decision to target a younger coach with recent experience on the field to focus on our attack.

“We met with Jimmy in Townsville last week and we were impressed with how he presented and the ideas he had to improve our team.

“He will be an excellent sounding board for our spine, in particular our young halves in Tom Dearden, Tom Duffy and Jake Clifford.”

The Cowboys had major issues at both ends of the park in 2023, and ultimately missed the top eight.