North Queensland Cowboys 2022 Team, Darren Lockyer on Tom Dearden’s Future

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Tom Dearden signed with the Cowboys in the hopes that he would wear the No. 7 jersey in the coming seasons, so he won’t want to listen to Darren Lockyer’s thoughts on where the young halfback fits next year.

Dearden was immediately released from the Broncos in April after North Queensland coach Todd Payten was pleased to see Jake Clifford expedite his move to Newcastle, who had signed the five-eighth on a two-year deal starting in 2022.

Payten also had to fill the huge hole left by the forced retirement of Cowboys legend Michael Morgan. It was the perfect scenario for Dearden, who had struggled for playing time at halftime in Brisbane.

But within weeks of Dearden’s move north, the Cowboys ramped up their recruitment and lured veteran Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend to Townsville on a three-year contract, followed by the re-signing of five-eighth Scott Drinkwater.

The blockade among the playmakers has left the Cowboys in a dilemma.

Dearden has the rest of this season to prove he’s the man to start as a halfback before Townsend joins the club next season, but at this stage – according to Lockyer – he’s third in the league’s halves for 2022.

“We’re always talking about halves that complement each other…so when we’re working on that, right now it’s Townsend and Drinkwater, and Dearden is just a young pup earning his stripes,” Lockyer told Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.

“It’s been a mystery since they signed Townsend and Dearden.”

Another Broncos legend, Sam Thaiday, backed Lockyer, believing the Cowboys would be best off with Townsend – a dependable halfback closer to 200 NRL games – for 20-year-old Dearden.

“I agree with Locky,” said Thaiday.

“I love Townsend and Drinkwater together. I think Drinkwater is a fantastic five-eighth, and Tommy still earns his stripes as first division.”

The composition of the Cowboys’ backbone is up for debate given Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow’s impressive performance on the fullback last Saturday.

The 19-year-old replaced the injured Valentine Holmes and his mind-boggling speed cut the Roosters in half several times.

So could ‘The Hammer’ beat the No. 1 jersey, even if Holmes is fit again?

“I like fullbacks who can pass and put their outside men in better positions and create space for them,” said Lockyer.

“His speed makes him effective as a fullback. (And) Val is a good fullback at NRL level. Hammer played in the centers for Origin and did a great job and I think that’s where you continue with him.”

“And Queensland needs centers!”

The Cowboys are looking good at hooker, with versatile Reece Robson in excellent form and veteran Jake Granville, who re-signed for 2022 last month, adding a little spark from the bench.

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