Broncos throw Dearden in at the deep end
WHEN you hear someone say this week that Tom Dearden is a natural or a sure thing, spare a thought for the young man.
Examples both old and current should temper expectations on Dearden as a L-plate Broncos halfback amid the fallout from the Kodi Nikorima controversy.
Some good judges at the Broncos have said for several weeks that the 18-year-old would be their NRL halfback by mid-season.
He has blondish hair, inviting easy if unfortunate comparisons to Allan Langer, who was, mind you, 21 when he first played for Queensland and then in a national competition.
The Broncos are convinced Dearden is their best option at No.7 and heaven knows the Broncos need one of their halfback projects to come up trumps.
But let's remember he was, after all, a member of the first Australian schoolboys team to lose in England since Adam played in the "five stone sevens''.
He was playing schools football last year for Palm Beach Currumbin High.
On Thursday night, he will play halfback - far from a toe-in-the-water debut off the bench - and have a big target on his back in the eyes of the remorseless Sam Burgess.
It's the same Burgess who spoke matter-of-factly on Fox League last Sunday night about how he was there to "take out'' rival playmakers.
Teammate Alex Glenn said from watching Dearden at training and at Intrust Super Cup level, he had a kicking game to augment Anthony Milford's kicking.
How quickly he adjusts to men who have lived in a gym for 10 or more years bearing down on him while he is doing it, we will see.
Some case histories can be born in mind about how unforgiving are league's playmaker roles.
Halfback Brett Seymour made the Broncos first grade team at 17 years and seven months and at age 21 he was sacked after 62 games for disciplinary breaches.
Seymour could not keep his career on the tracks at the Sharks, Warriors and four English clubs.
Like Ben Walker a few years later, he could not solve Brisbane's lingering "Alf'' problem.
Nathan Cleary's past 15 games for Penrith have not been among his best.
Jake Clifford's learning curve at the Cowboys underline what confronts Dearden, who might be terrific in most of his first 10 NRL games and battle more through the next 10.
Clifford, 21, was outstanding at halfback for a winning Queensland under-20 team last year. He has played precisely 11 NRL games.
Sure, Brad Fittler played two semi-finals at five-eighth for Penrith before his 18th birthday.
Sure, Darren Lockyer played first grade at 18, but he also learned his trade at fullback while Langer and Kevin Walters did what is now called game management.
Glenn said Wayne Bennett would try to expose the rookie half in defence.
"Matt Gillett has a big task trying to protect him when Souths try to spot him,'' Glenn said.
"He's not the biggest half and they will see a target to get some big metres. Speaking to him, he doesn't want to be on the Souths highlights reel. He prides himself on his defence.''