Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the Cowboys signed two No.7’s in Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden on big money deals, but there are promising signs for the scrumbase duo in 2022.
Townsend was brought to the Cowboys on a monster $ 2.4 million three-year deal, while Dearden was poached from the Broncos on a contract worth about $ 450,000 a season.
At the time that looked like a sizeable investment in two strikingly similar players that played the same position, but Dearden’s switch to the No.6 jersey looks like it could pay dividends with Townsend by his side.
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Granted it is only Round 3, but there was plenty to like about the Cowboys playmakers in their 26-4 Round 2 win over the Raiders.
Dearden had 87 run meters, a tackle bust, a linebreak assist and two try assists, while Townsend had 33 run meters, two tackle busts, a linebreak, and a try assist with both players controlling the contest with their kicking games.
Cooper Cronk believes there was far more to Townsend’s signing than just his on-field talents, with the 2016 premiership winner already having a big impact on North Queensland’s younger players, especially Dearden.
“This is what Chad Townsend brings, conversations after the game, in the game, Monday to Friday, with the likes of Dearden and (Heilum) Luki and (Jeremiah) Nanai,” Cronk said on Fox League.
“While he might not have as much speed or physicality as he used to, he still has the wits between the ears, like Tom Dearden will learn.
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“He’ll be telling him next time you do this, try this. It’s just going to help.
“We heard from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow before, he really enjoys the fact he can bounce some ideas off a guy that’s been there and done that.”
The 31-year-old Townsend came to the club with 33 tries and 457 points from 191 NRL games since his debut in 2011 and a premiership in 2016 with the Sharks.
However his form last season was terrible as he fell out of favor at Cronulla after announcing his three-year Cowboys deal, before switching to the Warriors on a short-term contract late in the season.
Dearden too made a mid-season switch from the Broncos where he never won a game as a starting halfback, scoring two tries in 22 games since his debut in 2019.
Dearden was earmarked as a prodigious talent by the Broncos from a young age, but the now 21-year-old struggled to adjust to life in first grade initially, as the Broncos rebuilt the club after its first ever wooden spoon in 2020.
The Broncos decided to invest heavily in Adam Reynolds on a three-year deal and didn’t even offer Dearden a contract extension, before he sealed a move to the Cowboys.
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Michael Ennis, who knows first hand what Townsend brings to a footy side having played alongside him in the Sharks 2016 premiership team, believes that wily No.7 is the ideal player to get the best out of Dearden and the Cowboys’ young brigade.
“Townsend has had an immediate impact on his teammates,” Ennis said.
“He can execute a game plan, he’s got an astute kicking game and over the years he’s really embraced the leadership role.
“At Cronulla he had a number of guys like Wade Graham and Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen that were really good leaders, he learned a lot from them and you can see the impact he’s having there at the Cowboys.”
Ennis admitted that he was one of the skeptics regarding a Townsend-Dearden halves combination due to the fact they are very similar players.
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However, the growing bond between Townsend and Dearden on and off the field has the potential to make them a successful halves pairing for the Cowboys for the next three seasons at least.
“There was a lot of expectation on him, he went there on big money, everyone thought it was overs and he wasn’t in the greatest of form,” Braith Anasta said of Townsend on Fox League.
“Do you think he still has high-quality footy ahead of him?”
“I do, yeah,” Ennis replied.
“I had concerns that him and Dearden were similar players and I like what Scott Drinkwater brings in terms of his attack.
“I loved his ability with where the game’s at where it’s fast and frantic sometimes and he can play off the cuff and we saw last year how many points he can create.
“(But) it seems as though (Townsend and Dearden) have formed a really great bond. They’re in great discussion about the game, they’re talking footy. “