Origin News: Dearden’s plan to make Maroons recall a success, DCE’s mixed feelings over captaincy call


Tom Dearden knows Cameron Munster’s are big shoes to fill but the Queensland five-eighth isn’t trying to do that in his State of Origin return.

With Munster (groin) scratched for the series, the North Queensland playmaker will return to the arena in Sydney on June 5 and look to bed down his spot alongside skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.

“They’re definitely big shoes to fill,” Maroons No.6 Dearden said. “We know how important he’s been for Queensland and I think the most important thing with me preparing for this week is just making sure that I stick to playing my strengths. 

“I don’t have to be Cameron Munster or anyone else. I just have to go out there and get my job done.”

The 23-year-old filled in for the Storm whiz on late notice in the final game two years ago, clicking instantly with Cherry-Evans in a 22-12 win.

He had left first club Brisbane a year earlier, yearning for a fresh start after a torrid top-flight introduction ended with him dropped to the Queensland Cup and going 13 and then 14 games without an NRL win.

Dearden’s record was 5-29 with Brisbane and North Queensland in his first three NRL seasons and is 35-23 since 2022.

“It certainly was a tough start to my career, but I’ve moved on from that period now and I’m really settled up at the Cowboys,” he said.

“I feel really comfortable and confident with where my game’s going.

“I was probably second guessing myself at the start of my career. 

“Now that I’ve found a spot where I’m comfortable and really enjoying my footy, I think when you’re enjoying your footy you’re playing good footy.”

Dearden has taken over the Cowboys’ captaincy alongside fellow Maroons star Reuben Cotter, who expects the playmaker to flourish.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“He’s just such a competitor and you know what you’re going to get from him,” Cotter said of Dearden.  “He’s had this opportunity before and he rose to it.”

Dearden said his captaincy role had helped him find his voice, but that leading by example remained the preferred method in Townsville.

Slater has seen enough, confident Dearden can steer the Queensland ship after picking him ahead of Brisbane livewire Ezra Mam, who is in the extended squad.

“The one thing that Queensland did have when Cameron Munster went down was quality players that could fill in that position,” Slater said.

“Ezra Mam is a part of the 20-man squad, and just like J’maine Hopgood last year, when you’re a part of the squad it means that you’re playing for the standard this footy team has created. 

“This team’s created a really high standard. But I just feel that Tommy Dearden has really earned this opportunity. 

“He’s been playing great all year, he’s got great habits in his game and he’s done a great job for Queensland in the past.”

DCE’s mixed feelings over Jake’s elevation

Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans says the axing of former NSW captain James Tedesco “sucks” because he has been in the same position and understands the pain.

On the flip side it is a bittersweet moment as Jake Trbojevic, his soulful, competitive Manly teammate and great friend, has become NSW skipper instead.

Cherry-Evans, 35, and 30-year-old Trbojevic will go head-to-head in an old-fashioned ‘mate v mate’ State of Origin confrontation in Sydney on June 5 in the State of Origin series opener.

“That theme hasn’t necessarily disappeared but it has been a bit hard to lean into a bit lately, without those sort of rivalries,” Maroons half Cherry-Evans said.

“But two (Origin) captains each coming from the same club is as good as it gets,”

The pair mark the first club teammates to captain opposing states since 2000, when Sydney Roosters duo Brad Fittler and Adrian Lam led NSW and Queensland.

Cherry-Evans is also a good friend of Tedesco, shares the same management company, and has represented Australia alongside him.

The 2011 premiership winner was dropped in 2015 from the Maroons and spent three years in the Origin wilderness.

So news of 31-year-old fullback Tedesco’s axing in favour of Penrith’s Dylan Edwards – after Tedesco and Cherry-Evans had contested four consecutive Origin series against each other as opposition captains – hit home.

“That’s hard because I have been there before. I have been dropped from Queensland and it sucks,” Cherry-Evans said.

“There are really no words to explain it because we as footy players want to keep doing it forever and ever.

“I’m not here to say the door is shut on Teddy to play for the Blues ever again but obviously it hurts initially.

“They have … gone with Dylan. Madge (NSW coach Michael Maguire) is obviously not afraid to make the moves that he thinks will put them in the best position.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

“As a friend of Teddy’s, it was definitely disappointing.”

Cherry-Evans explained his mixed emotions in a nutshell.

“Teddy gets dropped and my current teammate becomes captain. It is hard not to be really happy and proud for Jake for how hard he has worked and his perseverance as a footy player,” Cherry-Evans said.

“He continually rocks up and plays good footy each week and it is amazing to see where he is now. He is NSW captain.”

It is why Cherry-Evans expects to face a NSW side, led by middle forward Trbojevic, that will give no quarter.

“He is a win-at-all-costs player. Jake doesn’t have a good poker face,” Cherry-Evans grinned.

“That is the best way to explain it. If (Manly) have lost, he is not happy. With the wins, he rides them just as hard as anyone else. I am really proud of Jake. He has worked so hard and been super-competitive for a long time.”

Cherry-Evans said he had texted Trbojevic “to say congrats” but that they wouldn’t speak again before the series opener.

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