Cotter, Dearden take over as Cowboys NRL captains

Murray Wenzel |

Tom Dearden (6) and Reuben Cotter (right) have been named Cowboys co-captains for NRL season 2024.
Tom Dearden (6) and Reuben Cotter (right) have been named Cowboys co-captains for NRL season 2024.

Tom Dearden’s remarkable NRL resurgence will reach historic heights when he becomes North Queensland’s youngest captain, three years after he was passed over by Brisbane.

The five-eighth, 22, will share the duties with fellow Mackay product Reuben Cotter, replacing veteran pair Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend.

He’ll be a younger captain than club great Johnathan Thurston, who was 23 when he took the reins in 2007.

Dearden has revived his NRL career in Townsville since a move from the Broncos in 2021.

Tom Dearden.
Tom Dearden helped guide the Cowboys to within a win of the NRL finals in 2023. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

Touted as Brisbane’s long-term solution in the halves, his time at Red Hill ended abruptly when Dearden shifted clubs mid-season fresh off the club’s first wooden spoon campaign.

After Dearden’s exit Brisbane coach Kevin Walters cycled through a quartet of Albert Kelly, Tyson Gamble, Karmichael Hunt and Brodie Croft in the halves.

The move north paid immediate dividends for Dearden though, his form rocketing him into a Queensland State of Origin debut when he starred in the 2022 series decider.

Dearden rejected interest elsewhere to sign a five-year contract extension at the Cowboys in December that will keep him in Townsville until 2029.

Knee injuries kept Cotter off the park for three years before he finally debuted for the Cowboys in 2019, the gutsy forward earning the Wally Lewis Medal for player of the series in last year’s Origin.

Reuben Cotter.
Reuben Cotter starred for the Maroons during their State of Origin series win last year. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Coach Todd Payten said the change was partly due to the club’s ageing roster.

“This decision was not made lightly and is certainly no reflection on Jason and Chad’s leadership,” coach Todd Payten said.

“This was a long-term decision for our club.

“We have made the decision to make a change now to help our new captains develop while still having experienced shoulders to lean on.

“Chad has had a profound impact on our club since his arrival, he has brought a different view to our players, particularly around professionalism and life away from football.

“Jase has always led through his actions, our players look to him in the toughest moments, which is one of the signs of a great leader.”

Payten said the new skippers “represent everything we stand for and who we are as a club”.

“They’re local kids, they’re relentlessly dedicated to this club and their teammates, but they’ve also had some life challenges which they have had to work their way through and now they’re representative players,” he said.

Dearden said the honour wasn’t lost on him.

“I played all my junior football in North Queensland, I supported the club growing up,” he said.

“When you look back at the history of the players who have captained this club, it includes some of the best to ever wear a Cowboys jersey and to be able to follow in their footsteps is very special.”