FOR the first time in his life, Dragons interim coach Dean Young's future lies with another NRL club after the 36-year-old informed the board of his intention to move on at season's end.
Overlooked for the head coaching role, Young was invited to remain on incoming coach Anthony Griffin's staff and see out the final year of his contract with the Dragons in 2021.
The pair worked together with Tonga last year and have a high personal regard for each other, with Young initially tipped to take up the offer and remain in Wollongong.
There had even been talk of a possible succession plan that would see Young take the reins when Griffin's deal was up but it's understood the club was not going to stand in his way if he chose to look elsewhere after being passed over for the top job.
That will now be the case with the Cowboys his most likely destination under new coach Todd Payten. He's also been linked to the assistant's role at Newcastle set to be vacated by David Furner, though North Queensland remain the front-runner.
Young's passion for the red v is unquestioned, but the club's desire to bring in an 'outside voice' reportedly prompted him to look at his own future and whether he'd also benefit from a change despite still being held in high regard by the board.
"I'm in the coaching game for the long haul, where my journey goes I'm not too sure," he told The Mercury last week.
With the side going 1-3 in his interim tenure it's thought the playing group - many of whom Young has coached since the under 20s - could also use a new voice despite the fact they expressed a near universal desire to see him stay on with Griffin.
The departure will end an association that goes all the way back to his time as a St George ball boy when father Craig skippered Dragons in the 70s and 80s.
He debuted for the joint-venture in 2003 and was a key cog of the club's breakthrough 2010 title under Wayne Bennett before chronic knee problems forced him into early retirement in 2012 after 209 games.
He went straight into coaching, first as Dragons NYC coach and then as a member of Paul McGregor's coaching staff for five seasons. He's long been viewed as an NRL coach of the future, though it now looks likely to be elsewhere.
It will see Griffin bring in a entirely new coaching staff after the club informed Shane Flanagan it would not be taking up the option on the second year of his contract.
James Shepherd will also not be returning while head of performance Nathan Pickworth has also been told his services won't be required next year.