Darius Boyd says Brisbane's 18-year-old halfback Thomas Dearden is "pushing down the door" for his NRL debut as first choice halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima have a genuine threat breathing down their necks.
Dearden, who is now in Brisbane's official top 30 squad after turning 18 in March, has been named on the extended Broncos bench ahead of Saturday night's clash with the Cronulla Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.
That is a sign from coach Anthony Seibold that the former Australian Schoolboy is close to a call-up. Seibold named Gehamat Shibasaki on his extended bench before playing him in the round four clash with the Roosters and forward Patrick Carrigan was regularly named on the same list before making his NRL debut in round five against Wests Tigers.
Milford said earlier this year that Dearden was one of the halfbacks putting the heat on the incumbents and that pressure has only intensified after five losses from the opening six games where Brisbane's halves have been unable to ice close matches.
Boyd, speaking at a promotion for the NRL's Magic Round in Brisbane, said Dearden was "pushing for a spot definitely".
Match Highlights: Raiders v Broncos
"He played so well in those trial matches [against Souths-Logan and Wynnum-Manly] that he got a crack against the Titans and played the last 10 minutes in a proper NRL trial," Boyd said.
"He's come straight out of school and the Australian Schoolboys and been doing a heap of extra work at training. He's leaving no stone unturned and pushing the door down very hard to get a spot.
"From what I've seen, I think he could definitely play right now, but I don't want to put too much pressure on him as well. He is only a young kid and playing a full game and steering a team around the park [in the NRL] is different to playing a few Q Cup games or coming off the bench in an NRL trial."
Boyd said Dearden, who attended Palm Beach Currumbin High as he did, had been doing "special things" at training and for Wynnum-Manly in the Intrust Super Cup.
"He takes the line on. He's not a big kid but he is deceptively strong, has great speed, supports well and has a very good dummy, which is one thing I noticed when he played his first game for Wynnum in the Queensland Cup where he threw a dummy and went straight over and scored. He did that in the trial matches as well," Boyd said.
"He's just really calm. He's got a great kicking game and I've seen him a number of times at training on a day off when I've been driving past and he's there kicking balls.
"For a young kid he's got a great temperament. He's very humble and very smart and asks questions. For his age he is well beyond his years. I just think he is very switched on, very level headed and I think he is going to make NRL very, very soon."
It is the young guns who are leading the way for the Broncos with 19-year-old forwards Payne Haas and Thomas Flegler both standouts as starters in the 26-22 loss to Canberra.
"At that age a lot of players are just happy to play first grade or just be in the side, but I've never seen young ones that contribute as well as they do," Boyd said.
"When I was that age I probably wasn't contributing at the level they are. They have freakish ability and talent, but they are young and it is a learning curve for them."