Former St George Illawarra Dragons head coach Paul McGregor is set to make his return to the NRL by taking up a job at the North Queensland Cowboys under Todd Payten.

McGregor last held an NRL job in 2020 at the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Let go by the struggling club in the middle of that season, McGregor, who had previously coached in the NSW Cup at the club, had a record of 70 wins across 151 first grade games since he was elevated to the head coaching job in 2014 to replace Steve Price.

The man affectionately known as Mary was an Illawarra junior before playing 124 games for the Illawarra Steelers and another 34 for the joint-venture to the end of his playing career in 2001. He also managed 14 State of Origins for New South Wales and three Tests for Australia.

McGregor has recently been involved in State of Origin once again, working as part of Brad Fittler's staff in recent years. His name was even mentioned earlier this year as a potential replacement for Fittler among a host of others, although it now appears Fittler will win another year in charge of the Blues despite losing the last two series on the hop.

McGregor has also worked on a part-time basis with the Parramatta Eels in recent times.

Multiple reports in recent days have suggested McGregor has resigned from his position at the NSWRL, and News Corp are now suggesting the reason why is that he will make the move to Townsville to take the job vacated by another former Dragon in Dean Young as part of Todd Payten's staff.

Young has been at the Cowboys since he left the Dragons after Anthony Griffin's appointment as head coach, but will return to work under Shane Flanagan next year.

Young's departure combined with Steve Geogallis making his exit from Townsville means the club have a completely new assistant coaching staff next year.

It has already been confirmed by the Warriors that experienced assistant Justin Morgan is making the move to Townsville, and McGregor, who has been linked with a move to the Newcastle Knights in recent times as well, will find himself working in the north of Queensland.

Any move to the Knights, who also considered Justin Holbrook, has been shut down though with the once-under-pressure Adam O'Brien guiding his side to the semi-finals and likely earning a contract extension to be signed in the coming weeks.

McGregor wants to return to head coaching and has made no secret of the fact, with the coach previously talking out on the messy circumstances of his exit from the Dragons where he virtually lost full control of the unravelling club.