Dearden cements Origin credentials in DCE masterclass

Jacob Shteyman |

Tom Dearden (r) was happy to play a secondary role to Daly Cherry-Evans (l) in the win over NSW.
Tom Dearden (r) was happy to play a secondary role to Daly Cherry-Evans (l) in the win over NSW.

While Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans orchestrated his side’s 38-10 State of Origin demolition of NSW, halves partner Tom Dearden was happy to play second fiddle.

His unflashy display as Cherry-Evans’ foil was a reminder of why the 23-year-old has a long career ahead of him as a Maroons mainstay.

That’s not to say the North Queensland five-eighth was not exceptional in his own right.

Dearden was instrumental in dismantling the Blues’ depleted right edge in the first half and showed the best of his powerful ball-running in the second when he went past Nicho Hynes to set up Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow for Queensland’s coup de grace.

Tom Dearden of the Maroons makes a break to set up Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in Game 1 at Accor Stadium. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

But with his veteran skipper taking all the plaudits, perhaps Dearden’s best attribute on show on Wednesday night was his ability to do the simple things well and keep the team ticking over.

“I just focus on what I need to do for the team and I think it’s all the little things like kick-chase, making my tackles, getting my hands on the ball and keeping it nice and simple,” he told AAP.

Cameron Munster is too good a player not to warrant selection, but with a groin injury likely to rule the Melbourne playmaker out of this year’s Origin series, Dearden has a golden chance to cement his place as Cherry-Evans’ long-term heir.

“Having someone like Daly, he’s such a great captain, he’s so composed on the field and I thought he was awesome tonight,” Dearden said. 

“He kept us nice and patient and got us around the field. I think with them going down to 12 men that’s what we needed.”

At 35, Cherry-Evans is seemingly getting better with age and shows no sign of giving up his Origin mantle any time soon.

But when he does eventually go, Dearden’s name is at the top of the list to fill his shoes long-term, with his elevation to Cowboys co-captain lending extra leadership experience to help fill DCE’s void.

Coach Billy Slater was effusive in his praise of Cherry-Evans’ leadership, but his description could just as easily have been applied to the skipper’s understudy.

“I feel the great leaders do their job in their positions and that’s the first thing that Daly gets right,” Slater said.

“I thought his commitment to the defensive side of the game was first-class, he put our team in good positions turning the ball over and making that last play. He is a smart footy player, that’s why he’s the leader of this footy team.”