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NRL clubs set to make move for St Helens star after shock development

St Helens star Lewis Dodd

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have agreed to a five-year contract extension with five-eighth Tom Dearden, running through the 2029 season. This has come as a surprise to many.

The extension will take Dearden through his age-28 season and a ninth campaign in Cowboys colours.

Born in Toowoomba, Dearden and his family moved to Mackay where he was part of the Cowboys Academy system as a budding star at Mackay State High School.

In 2017 he relocated to the Gold Coast to attend Palm Beach Currumbin State High School, before making his NRL debut for the Brisbane Broncos as an 18-year-old in 2019.

Dearden signed with the Cowboys mid-way through the 2021 season with his young career at a crossroads and while on-field results didn’t immediately follow, he quickly endeared himself to Cowboys coaching staff and teammates through his relentless competitiveness both at training and during games.

He won a pre-season battle with Scott Drinkwater for the No.6 jersey leading into the 2022 season, which signalled the beginning of a meteoric rise, which included a Queensland State of Origin debut in the series deciding victory over NSW and a Preliminary Final appearance with the Cowboys.

In two and a half seasons in North Queensland, Dearden has appeared in 58 games, scoring 22 tries and assisting on a further 28.

This is a blow for Super League clubs as it leaves many NRL teams still in the halfback market which is slowly diminishing down under and is likely to create more pressure on moves for the likes of Lewis Dodd and Lachlan Lam over the next six months as clubs look for a solution to their halfback problems.

In fact, Serious About Rugby League understands that a number of NRL clubs are considering a move for Dodd who is out of contract at the end of 2024 but has an option to extend his deal with St Helens until the end of 2024.

He turned down Wests Tigers in 2023 after St Helens CEO Mike Rush advised him against making the move to the NRL’s wooden spooners.

However, today is a terrific day for North Queensland as emphasised by those at the club.

“This is a great day for our club, locking in one of the most talented young playmakers in rugby league to remain in a Cowboys jersey until the end of the decade,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said.

“Today’s announcement finalises what we believe is a solid foundation for our club to build around with Tom, Scott Drinkwater and Reece Robson all locked into long-term deals.

“We were always confident Tom wanted to remain part of our club because he has thrived in our environment. His improvement as a player has been considerable since he first arrived in 2021 and we believe he’s only scratched the surface.

“We are thrilled to extend Tom’s contract to the end of 2029 and look forward to the success we believe is in front of us with Tom playing an integral role.”

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