Revealed: Broncos ace meets with Cowboys and Thurston
Broncos young gun Tom Dearden has flown to Townsville for talks with the Cowboys, who have rolled out Johnathan Thurston in a bid to sign one of the NRL's hottest halfback prospects.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the off-contract Dearden met with Cowboys powerbrokers, including coach Todd Payten and club icon Thurston, last Sunday as North Queensland ramp up plans to poach the teenage sensation.
The Broncos were aware of Dearden's trip to the tropics, with Brisbane coach Kevin Walters notified of the 19-year-old's willingness to test his value on the open market amid interest from seven NRL rivals.
>> Stream 25 of the Broncos greatest games & exclusive interviews only on Kayo RIGHT NOW. Get your 14-day free trial now & start streaming instantly >
The Cowboys will lose rising playmaker Jake Clifford to Newcastle in 2022 and are on the hunt for halfback options, prompting North Queensland to circle the classy Dearden.
While the Broncos are privately confident of retaining the future Queensland Origin star, Cowboys football-operations chief Micheal Luck believes Dearden, who has lived in Mackay, would be a good fit for the club.
"There is interest in Tom," Luck said.
"With Jake Clifford going to Newcastle next year, we have a vacancy at halfback and we are looking at several options and Tom is among them.
"In a tough year for the Broncos last season, Tom was pretty good and he is one we are looking at.
"We talked to Tom about how our squad looked. He was impressed with what he saw. Todd (Payten) is very up front in how he talks to his players and how we wants our team to play and what role they have at our club.
"Tom spent his formative years in Mackay and his parents are back in Gatton at the moment.
He was actually in our Cowboys Academy at Mackay four or five years ago so he is not foreign to our set up and what we do.
"This deal won't be done in the next few days, but I'd like to think he liked what he saw ... we will see how we go."
The Broncos cannot afford to lose Dearden. Thurston believes the 17-game rookie can have a 15-year future in the NRL and Walters will fight tooth-and-nail to keep Dearden at the Broncos.
Dearden recently told The Courier-Mail his preference is to stay at Red Hill but he is certain to field lucrative offers from rival clubs.
Dearden's manager Sam Ayoub said the boom playmaker has been up front with the Broncos and is in no rush to sort out his future as he explores his NRL options.
"We were totally transparent with the Broncos," Ayoub said.
"I contacted 'Kevvie' and let him know we were going up to Townsville and he was really good about it.
"He said he had no problem with Tom talking to the Cowboys because the reality is he is still contracted to the Broncos.
"It was a positive meet-and-greet. There were no contracts tabled, but the Cowboys wanted to express interest in Tom as he weighs up his options for next season.
"Johnathan (Thurston) has a huge regard for Tom and has known him for several years.
"Tom is in no rush. He wants to see how he starts the season at the Broncos and he will weigh things up at the appropriate time."
Originally published as Revealed: Broncos ace meets with Cowboys and Thurston