Johnathan Thurston insists coach Paul Green can build a successful dynasty at the North Queensland Cowboys like the greatest mentors in the game if he stays long term.
Green is entering his fifth season as North Queensland coach but is not contracted beyond 2018.
The 45-year-old former Maroons halfback has established himself as one of the leading coaches in the Telstra Premiership and is set to be in high demand, but Thurston has urged Green to remain in Townsville.
Thurston led the Cowboys to their first premiership under Green in 2015 and said he could build on that and create a legacy like Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm and Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos.
Green's win ratio of 61.5% (75 wins from 122 games) already compares well with Bennett's 62.1% (489 wins from 788) and Bellamy's 67.9% (294 wins from 433).
Thurston said the Cowboys mentor had the necessary coaching qualities and the playing squad at his disposal – one that Green has put together – to leave an enduring legacy.
"What he's done over the last four years has just been great and I'd love Greeny to stay on and become a coach like Bellyache and Wayne," Thurston told NRL.com.
"I'm sure if he does stay at the Cowboys he will certainly have that same kind of success with the team that he has assembled.
"Greeny is a good communicator and a great man manager.
"Along with that he has a really good footy brain and understands the game extremely well.
"What you need is a coach who believes in you and a coach who knows how to get the best out of his squad. He certainly knows how to do that. That was evident this year when you look at the amount of players that we used, but he still got the job done under adversity."
If all goes to plan, Thurston will get his wish.
"My preference is to stay," Green said.
"I don't want to go anywhere, and I think the club wants to keep me. That is a pretty good position to start from."
Green, who said he was humbled by Thurston's high praise, has been in the United States for several weeks on a working tour which has made it harder to get any deal finalised in the short term. Talks will continue in the new year.
The Cowboys have not missed the finals in four seasons under Green, along the way winning a premiership and reaching last season's grand final against the odds.
"There is more for us to do yet. It is just the tip of the iceberg," Green said.
"Doing what we did last season was an enormous opportunity for the development of some of the younger blokes who we can build the club around, Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan in particular, but there are also some other guys like Ethan Lowe, Coen Hess and young backs coming through.
"What we achieved gave a lot of players a heap of belief, despite being disappointed with the grand final."
Taumalolo turned down the New Zealand Warriors a couple of seasons ago due to Green's presence and credits the Cowboys coach for sending his career into orbit.
Morgan has also spoken about how Green has helped transform him from a solid first-grader into a representative star.
Morgan is also off contract at the end of 2018, but Thurston will be encouraging him to commit to the Cowboys.
“I’ll be getting in his ear to stay, that’s for sure,” Thurston said.
“He’ll be captain of the club one day and with him at the forefront we can certainly build a team around him and have a lot of success down the track.”
Green said the club would be “doing whatever we can to keep him”.
“He’s a local Townsville bloke and we have all seen his growth and development this year,” he said.
“He has been away with the Aussies at the World Cup and we didn’t want to distract him away from that by talking contracts.
“Now we will let him have a holiday, which he is entitled to, but I’m sure in the New Year we will be looking to sort that [new deal] out.”