Broncos legend Glenn Lazarus has slammed coach Anthony Seibold for picking 18-year-old halfback Tom Dearden to debut in arguably the biggest NRL game of the season so far, describing the selection as “irresponsible”.
Dearden got a surprise call-up for the blockbuster clash between a struggling Brisbane side and the Wayne Bennett-coached Rabbitohs, with the rivalry clash attracting huge attention in the build up.
While most of the press was focused on the clear tension between Bennett and the man who replaced him at the helm of the Broncos, the first NRL game for a player born in the 21st century was a strong additional sub-plot.
Dearden’s chance came as Kodi Nikorima’s switch to the Warriors was happening in the background with the Kiwi half told he did not have a long-term future in the Broncos’ No.7 jersey due to his ill-fitting combination with million dollar man Anthony Milford.
The teenager is extremely highly rated as a game managing halfback but Lazarus said he “looked like a little boy” in a 38-6 thrashing.
“I think it was very irresponsible of Anthony Seibold to debut that young boy in a game where it was all about him and Wayne Bennett,” Lazarus told Macquarie Sports Radio.
“There was so much press during the week, it was a game that meant a lot for both clubs, it was a game that was going to be talked about for some time and I just think the fact that Nikorima doesn’t get chosen and they put in young Dearden … he looks as though he’s going to be able to handle it but I just felt that he looked like a little boy running around the footy field not knowing whether he was Arthur or Martha.”
Lazarus is just the latest of a string of Broncos legends to voice strong criticism of his old club this season, with Seibold and club management on the end of an almost constant barrage.
For many of the Brisbane old boys the treatment of Kevin Walters, who was passed over as Bennett’s successor, has caused outrage, putting extraordinary pressure on Seibold to get quick results.
Now at 2-6 after a shocking start to the season, the Broncos are in a deep crisis, which worsened at a training session on Monday when Origin hooker Andrew McCullough had to be carried off the field with a knee injury.
Seibold also seems to be considering dropping big name backline players James Roberts and Jamayne Isaako, with the pair sent back to train with the club’s reserve grade side following the loss to the Rabbitohs.
Dearden is tipped to keep his spot in the No.7 jersey and Lazarus hopes that he won’t be scarred by his difficult introduction into the top grade.
“To the young bloke’s credit he got through it, he wasn’t outstanding but a lot of the time he just looked like he wasn’t quite sure what was going on,” Lazarus said.
“To his credit he didn’t do anything wrong, so I think the kid’s got a future and let’s hope that’s how it works out because it’s a key area and the Broncos are desperately needing someone that can run the team around the paddock and this guy apparently can do that, so hopefully that’ll work out.”