The North Queensland Cowboys are set to be without mercurial five-eighth Tom Dearden for the immediate future after the star half was taken to hospital for surgery on a severe injury suffered in the big win over the Warriors.

Dearden was excellent in the win, finishing with two tries and a try assist as the second-placed Cowboys surged to a 48-4 victory, but it’s since been revealed that Dearden was taken to hospital and underwent surgery after rupturing a testicle.

There is no timeframe on Dearden’s return as yet, but he is almost certain to miss the pivotal Round 24 clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Despite the considerable pain he would have been in, Fox Sports reports that Dearden had no difficulty attending a post-match function, not consulting the club’s doctor about the localised pain the following morning before undergoing surgery on Saturday night.

It’s a big blow for the 21-year-old, who has been a revelation this year and made his State of Origin debut in the Maroons’ Game Three victory.

It’s believed Ben Hampton will likely fill in as Chad Townsend’s halves partner while Dearden recovers before the finals. Despite having over 100 NRL appearances to his name, Hampton has only made two appearances so far this year.

After sitting at the top end of the table for much of the season, the Cowboys face a challenging run home as they attempt to hold on to second place.

With the Sharks and Storm breathing down their neck, they’ll face last year’s grand finalists – South Sydney and Penrith – in the final two games of the season. Losing both contests could see them fall out of the top four.