Thurston advice fires Cowboys young gun Dearden

Johnathan Thurston has urged North Queensland five-eighth Tom Dearden to take his game to the next level this season, with the young playmaker relishing some key advice from the Cowboys legend.

The 21-year-old forged a superb combination with veteran half Chad Townsend in 2022 to lead the Cowboys to the preliminary final.

His form earned a Queensland jersey, with Dearden helping steer the Maroons to a State of Origin series victory on debut.

"It will be a big year ahead for Tommy. He is going to be the hunted too now," NRL legend Thurston told AAP at Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports season launch.

"He has another year of NRL under his belt, and with that comes experience, but it is about knowing how to get your team in the game and how to come up with the right option at the right time.

"He is still learning that as a young half but I am looking for him to take his game to the next level this year as well."

Thurston has worked with the Cowboys halves on their combinations, and ahead of the NRL season-opener against Canberra in Townsville on Saturday Dearden said one pearl of wisdom delivered by his mentor was integral.

"He is really big on specific talk to the group," Dearden said.

"That is something Chaddy (Townsend) is really good at. Something I have got to work on is to make sure I get clear communication to my edge and the team as well."

Thurston was the ultimate competitor - at the end of each match in his 323-game career he could hardly speak after giving his all.

It is a trait Dearden shares and something Thurston believes meant the youngster was always going to make it, despite the Broncos allowing him to leave the club in 2021.

"I think it was Wayne Bennett who said you don't give up on someone who competes as hard as he does," Thurston said.

"Tommy competes until the final whistle and will leave everything out there.

"He can truly look his teammates and coaches in the eye and know he has given it his all."

Thurston was never content with what he had done in the past, always striving to take his game to new heights and becoming one of the great playmakers of the modern era.

"I am pretty big on that as well," Dearden said.

"I am always looking to improve. In all aspects of the game I am looking to get better."