‘Have you seen Tommy play?’: Why Dearden beat Mam to Munster’s spot

Tom Dearden is adamant he is the man to fill the void left by the injured Cameron Munster, vowing to make his mark in the State of Origin arena having cast aside a tumultuous start to his career.

A collective groan was issued through the Queensland camp when Munster succumbed in Magic Round to a groin concern – an issue that plagued his early season and ruled him out for the series.

‘have you seen tommy play?’: why dearden beat mam to munster’s spot

Tom Dearden beat Ezra Mam to the vacant Maroons five-eighth jumper.

Dearden has fended off a challenge from Broncos star Ezra Mam to claim the vacancy, after starring on his Maroons debut in the decisive clash of 2022.

The Cowboys co-captain has battled to get to this point, having gone from being lauded as the Broncos’ long-term halfback to axed and released in a matter of months.

Upon his arrival in North Queensland, coach Todd Payten saw a young man who seemed “gun shy”.

But Dearden has undergone a dramatic turnaround since piloting his side to the preliminary finals two years ago, developing a lethal running game – more than 95 metres an outing, while sitting second for line engagements this year (94) – in the process.

That transformation has the 23-year-old confident he possesses the tools to help orchestrate a third-straight Maroons triumph.

“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,” Dearden said.

“I was probably second-guessing myself at the start of my career, and now I’ve found a spot where I’m comfortable and really enjoying my footy. When you’re enjoying your footy, you’re playing good footy.

“With Munster, they’re definitely big shoes to fill. 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 to my strengths.

‘have you seen tommy play?’: why dearden beat mam to munster’s spot

Cameron Munster limps from the Suncorp Stadium turf after suffering a groin injury.

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

Dearden will continue to stave off Mam’s pursuits for his jumper, after the Brisbane No.6 made a compelling case for a maiden call-up.

After a slow start to the campaign, Mam was forced to adapt his game without regular halves partner Adam Reynolds, going on to register nine try assists, four tries and eight line-break assists in his past six games.

His grand final hat-trick last year also proved he was tailor-made for rugby league’s biggest stages.

Maroons coach Billy Slater said Mam’s inclusion among the group was about more than just injury cover or experience, but an indication of just how close he had come to a Queensland debut.

As for why Dearden got the nod: “Have you seen Tommy play? You don’t have to watch Tommy too long to understand what he brings to a footy team,” Slater said.

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

“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.

“There probably was not a wrong decision there, 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.”

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