The Cowboys are currently looking into the player market for a formidable halves starter as Michael Morgan weighs up an early retirement call and Jake Clifford departs Townsville for the Hunter Valley at season’s end.
In a further twist for the Cowboys, Newcastle are seeking to pry Clifford on an early release deal given a recent injury plague to several key Knights playmakers.
While the Cowboys are keen to hold Clifford to the end of his deal, North Queensland could let the 23-year-old depart if they can sign a player of Dearden’s talent level.
According to The Courier Mail, Dearden’s manager Sam Ayoub tabled a deal that could see Dearden head north should Clifford land an early move to the Knights and Morgan calls time on his career.
The Cowboys have showed previous interest in the Broncos half, with North Queensland coach Todd Payten and club great Jonathan Thurston meeting with the 20-year-old earlier this year.
Cowboys football-operations chief Michael Luck confirmed the clubs movements shortly after the meeting in February.
“There is interest in Tom,” Luck said at the time.
“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.”
Dearden remains unsigned past 2021 and is currently battling for the starting halfback role with teammate Brodie Croft.
Croft has been Kevin Walters’ go-to No.7 for a majority of this season, limiting Dearden to just 72 minute across the opening month of the year.
However, Dearden did manage to land the starting role in Round 4 against the Storm and has been named in Walters’ 13 to face the Rabbitohs on Thursday.
Walters has hit back at reports suggesting Dearden could leave Red Hill in 2021, stating the rising star is set to run out his contract with the Broncos.
“Tom is under contract to us this year so we won’t be releasing him,” Walters told The Courier Mail.