Why Tom Dearden lost faith in Brisbane Broncos
Why Tom Dearden lost faith in Brisbane Broncos

Inside story: How broken promises led to Bronco’s exit

Tom Dearden is a victim of the front-office political chaos that has made the Broncos the whipping boys of the NRL.

Dearden has been at the Broncos for just three years but in that time the Broncos have employed three coaches - Wayne Bennett, Anthony Seibold and Kevin Walters - all with varying opinions of his premiership potential at Red Hill.

When Dave Donaghy steps into the Broncos CEO's hot seat next week, the former Storm boss should digest the Dearden narrative because his signing with arch rivals the Cowboys crystallises everything that is presently wrong with Queensland's sporting flagship.

In the end, Brisbane's broken promises broke not only Dearden's heart, but his self-belief.

To understand the Dearden defection, you need to spool back to July 2018, when the then 17-year-old was the most sought-after emerging playmaker in rugby league.

 

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Broncos rookie Tom Dearden wasn’t sure where he stood with coach Kevin Walters (left).
Broncos rookie Tom Dearden wasn’t sure where he stood with coach Kevin Walters (left).

Growing up in Mackay, Dearden had been identified by North Queensland's academy system but when Bennett returned for a second coming at Red Hill, the playmaker's parents entrusted their son's development to the NRL super coach.

Off-contract midway through 2018, Dearden was chased by more than 10 NRL rivals. Reigning premiers the Roosters had a crack at the Australian Schoolboys sensation.

He and his management met with at least six NRL suitors.

Aware of the poaching avalanche, Brisbane chiefs called Dearden and his parents to a meeting at Red Hill.

The message was emphatic: Dearden was the future of the Broncos. The chosen one. A 10-year playmaker.

The halfback whiz around whom the Broncos could construct another premiership team.

 

 

Given those assurances, Dearden put faith in those words, politely declining a raft of NRL offers and inking a three-year extension with the Broncos.

Within months, Bennett was sensationally sacked, triggering a straight swap with Souths coach Anthony Seibold, and suddenly the premiership path laid out for Dearden took a confusing turn.

Twelve months after being told the Broncos would not buy another playmaker over the top of him, Seibold signed halfback Brodie Croft, with whom he had worked at the Melbourne Storm.

The Dearden camp was privately miffed.

As honest country folk from Toowoomba and Mackay, kicking and screaming is not the way of the Deardens.

 

Dearden was left stunned when former coach Anthony Seibold (left) purchased rival playmaker Brodie Croft from the Storm.
Dearden was left stunned when former coach Anthony Seibold (left) purchased rival playmaker Brodie Croft from the Storm.

But the first ruction had arrived.

In their world, where your word is your bond, the Broncos had let Dearden down.

When Walters took over from Seibold this season, Dearden had hoped for a clean slate. 'Kevvie' was as straight as the tax man. No lies, no mixed messages.

Normal transmission had seemingly resumed.

Dearden trained all pre-season as Brisbane's primary No.7.

The chosen one started at halfback in the Broncos' final pre-season trial against the Cowboys, who thrashed Brisbane 34-18 after trailing 18-6 at halftime.

Then came the second ruction.

After indicating Dearden would start in the premiership opener, Walters dropped a bombshell, picking Croft for Brisbane's round-one clash against the Eels.

 

 

In the space of a fortnight, Dearden went from Brisbane's main man to an out-of-favour playmaker at Souths Logan.

When the Cowboys upped the ante for Dearden a month ago, the Broncos young gun waited and waited for a riposte from Walters.

The silence was deafening. Brisbane could not commit to a formal offer. Strike three. Dearden was out.

In time, the Broncos may be vindicated with Dearden.

Perhaps his is the classic tale of the overhyped teenager who simply never kicked on to become an NRL superstar.

But along the way, Dearden craved honesty and a clear picture of exactly where he stood in Brisbane's grand title-winning jigsaw.

The Broncos' inability to back up their words - and judgment - may explain why their premiership vision is still a flaky mirage.

Originally published as Inside story: How broken promises led to Bronco's exit



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