No second guessing in Dearden's Origin return

Tom Dearden knows Cameron Munster's are big shoes to fill but the Queensland five-eighth isn't trying to do that in his State of Origin return.

With Munster (groin) scratched for the series, the North Queensland playmaker will return to the arena in Sydney on June 5 and look to bed down his spot alongside skipper Daly Cherry-Evans.

"They're definitely big shoes to fill," Maroons No.6 Dearden said.

"We know how important he's been for Queensland and I think the most important thing with me preparing for this week is just making sure that I stick to playing my strengths.

"I don't have to be Cameron Munster or anyone else. I just have to go out there and get my job done."

The 23-year-old filled in for the Melbourne whiz on late notice in the final game two years ago, clicking instantly with Cherry-Evans in a 22-12 win.

He had left first club Brisbane a year earlier, yearning for a fresh start after a torrid top-flight introduction ended with him dropped to the Queensland Cup and going 13 and then 14 games without an NRL win.

Dearden's record was 5-29 with the Broncos and North Queensland in his first three NRL seasons and is 35-23 since 2022.

"It certainly was a tough start to my career, but I've moved on from that period now and I'm really settled up at the Cowboys," he said.

"I feel really comfortable and confident with where my game's going.

"I was probably second guessing myself at the start of my career.

"Now that I've found a spot where I'm comfortable and really enjoying my footy, I think when you're enjoying your footy you're playing good footy."

Dearden has taken over the Cowboys' captaincy alongside fellow Maroons star Reuben Cotter, who expects the playmaker to flourish.

"He's just such a competitor and you know what you're going to get from him," Cotter said of Dearden.

"He's had this opportunity before and he rose to it."

Tom Dearden.
Tom Dearden played well after a late call-up for Queensland's 2022 series-deciding win. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Dearden said his captaincy role had helped him find his voice, but that leading by example remained the preferred method in Townsville.

Slater has seen enough, confident Dearden can steer the Queensland ship after picking him ahead of Brisbane livewire Ezra Mam, who is in the extended squad.

"The one thing that Queensland did have when Cameron Munster went down was quality players that could fill in that position," Slater said.

"Ezra Mam is a part of the 20-man squad, and just like J'maine Hopgood last year, when you're a part of the squad it means that you're playing for the standard this footy team has created.

"This team's created a really high standard. But I just feel that Tommy Dearden has really earned this opportunity.

"He's been playing great all year, he's got great habits in his game and he's done a great job for Queensland in the past."

The Maroons will train at Brisbane's Red Hill base on Tuesday before shifting south to their usual Sanctuary Cove headquarters on the Gold Coast.