NRL boss Todd Greenberg says Todd Carney will have to prove what work he's done, and why he won't re-offend again, for them to sanction his return to the game.
Four years after being sacked by Cronulla for his infamous 'bubbler' incident, Greenberg on Monday confirmed the governing body had received a contract for Carney to play this season.
It is believed North Queensland are set to offer Carney a one-year deal as back-up in the halves to Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin.
"We'll treat it (the application) on its merits," Greenberg said on Monday.
"We'll go through the process like we have with lots of other players who've come back to the game. But it's a process we're going to have to satisfy ourselves.
"I've always said we've never said no to Todd Carney."
It has been speculated that the NRL could deny Carney for at least another year, however Greenberg played that down, reiterating that the application will be based solely on merit.
Part of the process will include personally interviewing the 31-year-old, who played for the Cowboys' feeder club, Northern Pride, in a loss on Saturday night.
It was his first game back in Australia following a three-year stint in the Super League.
"As part of the process, we always have a face-to-face meeting with the player and we'll need to satisfy ourselves of two things," Greenberg said.
"One, that he's done the work to get to this point in time; and two, what the work looks like in the future to ensure that there's no repeat."
Cowboys captain Matt Scott said Carney would be a welcome addition to the playing group.
"If it does happen we have a really good club culture here at the moment, I am sure he will be able to fit into that nicely," Scott told reporters.
Former teammate Boyd Cordner said Carney has done his time for his misbehaviour, which included being sacked at Canberra and released by the Sydney Roosters.
"Being close with him, I know how much it's killed him being away from the NRL," he said.
"I know how much this means to him... hopefully it can all get put through and he can start training and living out his dream."