Tom Dearden hasn’t played a first grade game in over a year. Picture: AAP/Dave Hunt
Tom Dearden hasn’t played a first grade game in over a year. Picture: AAP/Dave Hunt

SOS: Dearden’s 384-day Broncos absence is over

TOM Dearden's 384-day absence from the NRL is over with Broncos coach Anthony Seibold to unleash the Brisbane young gun in Saturday night's derby against the Titans.

Dearden has been pitchforked into Brisbane's 17-man squad with the 19-year-old to be named on the bench as a back-up playmaker for underfire halves Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft.

The Seibold call-up will trigger derby nerves for Dearden, who has not appeared in the NRL since suffering a serious ankle injury in Brisbane's 26-18 loss to the Titans at Suncorp Stadium 12 months ago.

Seibold has come under fire for not selecting Dearden this season, sparking fears the boom playmaker could quit the club as seven NRL rivals, including the Titans and Storm, circle the Australian Schoolboys ace.

But after patiently biding his time during the COVID-19 crisis, Dearden will finally get his first taste of the NRL in more than a year as the Broncos desperately attempt to snap a four-match losing streak.

Seibold has tried to keep Dearden's return a secret, naming him 18th man with Jamayne Isaako in the No.14 jumper, but Isaako will be culled to open the door for the playmaker's comeback.

Anthony Milford (left) and Brodie Croft (right) are under serious pressure. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Anthony Milford (left) and Brodie Croft (right) are under serious pressure. Picture: AAP/Darren England

Former Broncos skipper and playmaking great Darren Lockyer said while Dearden isn't starting, it is the first positive step in the rookie's quest to displace Croft as Brisbane's long-term No.7.

"With Cory Paix out injured, Tom will get some time off the bench," Lockyer said.

"I'm really happy for Tom, it's not easy for guys at the moment outside the NRL team because they have nowhere else to play.

"It's an opportunity he has been waiting patiently for.

"It won't be quality time in the halves but just being part of the group and the intensity of the NRL will be good for Tom."

Dearden played five NRL games last season and had won three of his first four matches when he hit a hurdle against the Titans.

The Queensland under-18s halfback hobbled off in Gold Coast's boilover defeat of the Broncos and ultimately required surgery for an ankle problem that convinced Seibold to end his rookie season early.

Anthony Seibold (left) talks to his struggling halves. Picture: AAP
Anthony Seibold (left) talks to his struggling halves. Picture: AAP

Now Dearden is back, confident and fully fit, and Lockyer says the Broncos have no plans to lose a playmaker club scouts regard as a 15-year halfback.

"Talent is part of it, but the thing that is most impressive is his attitude," Lockyer said.

"His time will come through injury and suspension. If he gets a run, he will make the most of it.

"It's pretty rare for a kid to come into the NRL at 18 and hold his spot for the rest of his career.

"Their bodies have to get used to the intensity and the knocks _ it's pretty hard to sustain a debut at 18 and stay there week in, week out.

"We rate Tom highly and this will be a good chance to show us what he's got."



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