It is not the fault of the new Cowboy, Tom Dearden, for accepting the money offered to him. However, it is not clear how he could ever have expected to succeed given the team around him. When he first signed the deal, he was at the top of his game. Luke Brooks is a cautionary tale for million-dollar deals, having signed a big money contract for five years based on a good season in a tight market for playmakers. Brooks was never as good as his contract suggested, nor as bad as he was made out to be in relation to the contract. The circumstances surrounding his play, the team he was part of, and his employer’s offer were all valid. Brooks was part of a strong spine that included Benji Marshall next to him and Robbie Farah in front, but things went drastically the other way. While this does not mean that Dearden will end up like Brooks, it serves as a reminder that deals like this often appear decent at the time of signing, but can change based on how much cap space a player takes up.
Dearden is 22, a year younger than Brooks when he got his big contract, but was not awarded with a third place Dally M finish and Halfback of the Year accolades. Moreover, Dearden also had more pressure to perform with his elite playmaker status and pay. His extension with the Cowboys is a wager that he will improve into his pay packet in the upcoming years. For the foreseeable future, the Cowboys will have their best half locked in, as well as their fullback and hooker who are already under contract. However, Dearden’s kicking game is a weakness, and the team will need to find a replacement for Townsend in 2024. Nevertheless, Dearden’s extension is part of the team’s transition to a younger and more promising side for 2025 and beyond. With over 80 NRL appearances before the age of 22, Dearden has the potential to become one of the best five eighths in the league.