King Wally backs teen Bronco to shine
QUEENSLAND legend Wally Lewis has given 'The King's' seal of approval to Tom Dearden and urged the teenage Broncos sensation to terrorise Souths by running the ball in tonight's NRL grudge match.
Having consulted Broncos playmaking icon Darren Lockyer, coach Anthony Seibold will blood Dearden, who at 18 years and 50 days will be Brisbane's youngest starting halfback when he runs out at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
South Sydney's monster forwards, led by British Test star Sam Burgess, are certain to target Dearden and Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett turned up the heat on Wednesday by declaring: "He's no Allan Langer".
Dearden has played just four games in the Intrust Super Cup, but the kid who idolised Johnathan Thurston is now wearing the Broncos No.7 jumper made famous by Langer as Kodi Nikorima prepares to join the Warriors.
NRL Immortal Lewis made his Brisbane State League debut aged 18 before playing State of Origin at 20, and 'The King' is adamant Dearden will handle one of the most daunting debuts in the code's 111-year history.
"If you are good enough, you are old enough," Lewis said.
"People say he is only 18, but if he is good enough, age isn't a dilemma for me.
"Everything about him seems to be working quite well. It will be good to watch him. He will have nerves taking the field. It doesn't matter what advice you follow, you will be shi---ng yourself, but it will only take one cart of the football and his mind will go back to the role he has to perform.
"He seems to have a lot of ability and now he steps up to the biggest challenge of his life.
"The most important thing he can do is communicate, he has to have faith in his teammates and vice-versa."
The 84kg Dearden scored two tries in his first trial against Souths Logan in February by taking the line on and Lewis challenged him to test the Rabbitohs.
"I watched a recent game he played in the Intrust Super Cup and I was impressed with him," the former Broncos skipper said.
"He displayed confidence and he wasn't scared to run the ball and that's the best thing I can advise to young kids, run the ball.
"You will have them guessing. Beat them once and then the first thing in the defence is doubt."
Bennett hosed down comparisons with Brisbane's greatest halfback Langer.
"I've been coaching a long time and I've only ever seen one Allan Langer," he said. "I'm sure the kid is talented, but he's no Allan Langer."
Seibold believes Dearden will handle the pressure.
"It's a great occasion for Tom," he said.
"I've chosen him because I think he is ready to play. Not only did I think deeply about it, I consulted Darren Lockyer. He understands footy really well. He has a great knowledge of the game.
"I like the way he thinks about the game and he will be a good foil for 'Milly' (Anthony Milford). We don't expect miracles, he just has to do his job, that's all I expect of him."