Broncos' teen sensation likened to JT

The Broncos will unleash 17-year-old halfback Tom Dearden this weekend, with the former schoolboy sensation described by his trusted mentor as possessing Johnathan Thurston-like qualities.

Dearden has been named to start at halfback against Souths-Logan in a trial at Warwick following a stellar 2018 when he won the Peter Sterling Medal winner for the best schoolboy player in the GIO Cup competition after inspiring Palm Beach Currumbin High to their first national title since 2008.

Dearden, who idolises the retired Thurston, also starred at Mal Meninga Cup level last year for Tweed Heads Seagulls, representing Queensland under 18s and the Australian Schoolboys with distinction.

NRL.com spoke to Dearden's respected PBC schoolboy head coach Aaron Zimmerle about the rookie half and why he "ticks every box".

"Tommy is a unique blend which is why I rate him one of the best players that I have seen in my 16 years at PBC,” Zimmerle told NRL.com.

"He's an individual threat, but a team player as well. The thing that made him our captain and halfback was that at no stage was it ever about Tommy.

Broncos rookie Tom Dearden.
Broncos rookie Tom Dearden. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"He makes the players around him better and when the pressure is on he can step up and win you the game.

"It is a rare blend, like a Johnathan Thurston where they have the ability to win it on their own or create the opportunity for someone else to win it."

Last year's GIO Cup final was a case in point.

"There are kids that have natural talent, which he has in spades. There is no better example than the try he scored off the kick-off in the national [schoolboys] final he ran 70 metres to score, so he has got speed," Zimmerle said.

"He's strong and was bench-pressing 120 kilos at school. He's also got a great vertical jump, which tells you he's got quick-twitch [muscles].

"Tommy's attitude and work ethic is outstanding and the Broncos are giving him a taste at the next level because he has thrived at everything he has played previously. They know that he will go away and work really hard at getting himself there permanently."

Broncos hooker Jake Turpin doesn't expect Dearden to be overawed in his first game in Broncos colours.

"He has shown us in training how good he is and deserves every accolade he is getting lately. He seems like a pretty special player," Turpin said.

"He is definitely confident. That is one of the things that stands out to us. He is not afraid to get in front of the senior players and over-call them. It is a credit to him for coming in and not being scared."

Broncos rookie Tom Dearden.
Broncos rookie Tom Dearden. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Zimmerle has seen plenty of halves at PBC progress to the NRL and rates Dearden as a can't-miss prospect with a stellar future ahead.

"The beauty of it is that he is really humble," he said.

"He is the first one to praise his teammates or ask ‘what else can I do?’ During his off-season he came here to school and trained with the schoolboys so there is no ego there.

"If you had him in the classroom you would walk away saying 'that’s a great kid' without even knowing what his achievements in rugby league were.

"We've had some great halfbacks at PBC. Cameron Cullen and Kane Elgey are two who were outstanding at schoolboy level and were both Australian Schoolboys.

"Cody Walker didn't make Australian Schoolboys but won a national championship in 2008 and has since gone on to be outstanding at NRL level.

"Jordan Rankin went through as a teen prodigy and has had a good career and played Super League, but I would nudge Tommy Dearden in front of all of them."