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Payten impressed with Dearden despite limited training

Tom Dearden has been a Cowboy for just four training sessions, but coach Todd Payten has no qualms about bringing the halfback straight into the team.

The 20-year-old former Bronco joined North Queensland after their round-11 win over the Warriors and began working with his new teammates during a bye week.

He'll make his club debut against the Sea Eagles on Friday night, taking over the playmaking duties from Jake Clifford, who is now at Newcastle.

"He's a really polite kid, really respectful," Payten said of Dearden.

"We've manipulated our attacking points to take a little bit of the pressure off him, but his skillset and his talk and direction was pretty good, so I'm excited to see how he goes."

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Dearden should benefit from partnering in-form five-eighth Scott Drinkwater.

"That helps - I think if everyone else around him, it's certainly going to make his transition smoother," Payten added.

"But he's a very capable kid and he's slotted in pretty well."

Payten is hopeful that Maroons players Valentine Holmes and Kyle Feldt will back up from Wednesday's opening State of Origin clash but the Cowboys have trained as though they won't.

Meanwhile, young back-rower Heilum Luki has dropped out of the side for disciplinary reasons after a bright start to his career.

His skillset and his talk and direction was pretty good, so I'm excited to see how he goes

Todd Payten on Tom Dearden

"Heilum's been strong for us in the couple of games he's played for us, but he wasn't considered for us this week because he hasn't lived up to our values or standards in the past seven to 10 days," Payten said.

The coach said he couldn't elaborate while the club confirmed they wouldn't be making further comment after handling the issue internally.  

Captain Jason Taumalolo and fellow forward Lachlan Burr will return from one-match suspensions.

"I think [Taumalolo] makes us a better team, there's absolutely no doubt about that," Payten said.

"He hasn't had a run for a couple of weeks. We had a bit of a blowout with a bit of a conditioning game today and I thought they were all a little bit gassed.

"That just blew the cobwebs out and got them going again."

After losing their first four fixtures before recovering to a 6-6 record, Payten said his team still have plenty of improvement and will be challenged by the sixth-placed Sea Eagles, who sit directly above North Queensland on the ladder.

Heilum Luki and Jason Taumalolo.
Heilum Luki and Jason Taumalolo. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"We've taken some small steps forward over the past eight weeks. What we've given ourselves is a foundation to build upon. I think we're finding our style," Payten said.

"We've managed to compete for longer, our kicking game is better. We've adapted – I guess it's not a structured style of footy anymore. That took a little bit of time to adapt."

Manly have named Origin representatives Tom Trbojevic, Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic to play two days after turning out for their states.

"If I was Des, I'd probably rest Tom given his hamstring history and he's got a long flight back to Sydney. So I think that's the smart play," Payten quipped.

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