Beep test hell as rookie Broncos return to training
TOM Dearden finished in the top four of the Broncos first beep test of the summer but it was the shadow of a man not even there that is hovering over his short-term future.
Promising halfback Dearden, 18, hung in there strongly before being outlasted by young winger Herbie Farnworth, a convincing winner, and promising prop Pat Carrigan at the club's first pre-season training session attended solely by the Broncos' up-and-comers.
But the interesting challenge for Dearden has not arrived yet.
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That will come if, as is expected, the club recruits Melbourne Storm halfback Brodie Croft for next season.
Croft's likely arrival would initially seem a setback for Dearden, dubbed a 10-year player during a smattering of promising games this year in his debut season.
But it could be a bonus if it allows him to bake in the oven and harder into the long-term playmaker the clubs wants him to be.
If displaced as the club's No 1 halfback Dearden can be consoled by the reflections of club legend Darren Lockyer.
"I made my debut at 18 but I didn't really cement a first grade spot in the starting team until I was 20," former Broncos premiership winning skipper Lockyer told AAP last month.
"It's a bit optimistic to expect an 18-year-old kid to come in and be the general for a first grade team.
"We have belief in Tom's ability and he is a great kid. Long term he is going to be a great asset for the club."
All three Queensland clubs are struggling to find playmakers.
Theories on the lack of emerging generals range from the demise of backyard football to the emergence of social media which not only plucks kids away from the backyard but ruthlessly attacks the confidence levels of those in charge of steering the team around the paddock.
The Broncos pre-season is significant this season because it gives coach Anthony Seibold the chance to take complete ownership of the team but that also brings complete accountability for their results.
Seibold and Souths coach Wayne Bennett swapped spots last season and it was rumoured Seibold did not do star jumps when he assessed the fitness of the Broncos players at his first training session.
Carrigan's performance to finish an honourable second in the beep test only cements the theory he is emerging a future leader.
While beep tests don't measure charisma they do testify to the fact that he has the commitment to present himself at the start of the season in exceptional physical shape and that in itself is the stamp of a leader.
The session was attended by Jesse Arthars, the promising former Gold Coast, Souths and Melbourne utility back, who looms as a fullback option if Anthony Milford plays in the halves next season.
Arthars went to school and Keebra Park High on the Coast where he was several grades above David Fifita and Payne Haas.
At the corresponding training session last season Haas demonstrated his amazing fitness levels which have been a key factor in him surging into the Australian side this season.
"Watching them in the younger grades they were always killing it and it is so good to be able to reunite with them,'' Arthars said.
"When they come to the club and start training again it will be good to link up with them. Payne used to play with me. He has a real big motor. He is one of the guys you love training with because you know he will bring his best efforts.''