Cowboys coach Todd Payton has given a glowing endorsement of young gun Tom Durden, saying the rising player was a “shell of a man” when he arrived at the club.
Durden, 21, was once touted as a future star at the Brisbane Broncos before falling out of favor with head coach Kevin Walters.
The five-eighth signed a three-year deal with rivals North Queensland and was later granted a mid-season transfer.
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Both clubs were struggling towards the bottom of the ladder, with the Broncos claiming the wooden spoon for the first time in their history this season.
While Durden said his confidence didn’t take a hit with how things turned out with the Broncos, Coach Payne says he sees things differently now.
“He was a shell of a man, I have to say,” Petain told Matty Jones Fox League face to face.
“He’s nervous and he’s second-guessing himself on and off the pitch.
“What I did to him was the way he was trained. He is extremely competitive, truly professional, and playing footy means something to him.
He’s wanted to play NRL since he was a kid and you can see it in the way he goes.
North Queensland It took a step back in 2021 and finished 15th behind the Broncos.
But a fantastic pre-season, Dearden among the highlights, has catapulted the club into Premier League contention this year.
Payne said while the senior players have helped lead the team through a successful preseason, younger players including Durden, Reuben Cotter and Tom Gilbert have also impressed.
By experiencing the “unexpected,” these players helped the Cowboys learn from their mistakes.
“They train hard, everybody trains hard so that’s a given. In our evaluation, I’m talking about the evaluation of the coaches… We looked at all the tests that we did that were not fun to watch,” said Petain.
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“Most of those, I think about 60 percent of those come from missed tackles that should have been made or guys not having enough competition.
We did a lot of testing in the tournament and it affected our headroom in games. We defend two sets and then if one guy doesn’t finish his job or one guy doesn’t compete well enough, we try.
“We didn’t have the mental or physical capacity to jump into action as soon as something upset the rhythm or came at them.
“(We had to) just build a disruptive rhythm in different ways. Doing things you didn’t expect to do at different times and creating a little chaos and seeing how you handled it.”
“We got better as the preseason went on.”
Dearden has earned the Cowboys’ breakthrough season accolades, as they are currently second only to the Panthers, making his debut for Queensland.
The up-and-comer who helped them win the decider at Suncorp Stadium made himself known in one of the biggest stages of the game.