The real reason Croft left Melbourne Storm
Brodie Croft has addressed rumours he fell out with Cameron Smith as the Brisbane recruit backed himself to be the halfback that breaks the longest premiership drought in Broncos history.
As he prepares for his Broncos debut in the NRL Nines tournament starting this Friday, Croft set the record straight about his mysterious departure from a Melbourne club that had groomed him to be the next Cooper Cronk.
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Croft's apprenticeship looked complete when he steered the Storm to the 2018 grand final, but he veered off script last season, sensationally axed by coach Craig Bellamy on the eve of the 2019 finals series.
Having been a Storm regular last year, playing 22 games, Croft's relegation made no sense. There was talk Bellamy had lost faith in him as a playmaker. Worse, there were whispers Croft had lost the support of 411-game icon Smith, Melbourne's powerful top dog and the most-capped player in NRL history.
By season's end, Croft was packing his bags for the Broncos, who have big plans for the Cronk lookalike, installing him as the No.7 to solve their scrumbase migraines and, in turn, extract the best of Anthony Milford.
Ironically, the NRL Nines draw has pitted Croft against his former Melbourne teammates, but the 22-year-old insists there is no bad blood with Smith, Bellamy or anyone at the Storm.
"My view on that is I don't know what all those rumours (Croft falling out with Smith) have come from," he told The Sunday Mail.
"I had a great relationship with all the boys there and that was the hardest thing about leaving Melbourne was the mateships I made down there for four years.
"I moved away from my family to go down there.
"I created some tight bonds so I found it really hard to leave. When I reflect on my time at Melbourne, it was a rollercoaster I guess you could say, but it developed me as a player and person.
"Having Craig Bellamy as a coach, I learnt so much, so I wouldn't change anything."
Croft's appearance with the Broncos squad yesterday at a club fan day gave him an insight into the pressures of life for an NRL star in Brisbane's rugby-league fishbowl.
Barely recognisable in AFL-obsessed Melbourne, Croft was bombarded for pictures and autographs yesterday by hundreds of success-starved Broncos fans.
It has been 14 long years since the Broncos last won a premiership, and plenty of halfbacks have failed in pursuit of Brisbane's seventh premiership.
With just 39 NRL games under his belt, Croft accepts he is far from the finished article, but believes he has the skill set to take the Broncos to premiership glory.
"Hopefully I can stamp my mark on the team," he said.
"I wouldn't call myself the saviour. It's a really prestigious club and any time you wear the No.7 jersey there are going to be expectations and pressures.
"I don't read into it too much. 'Seibs' (Broncos coach Anthony Seibold) sits down and tells me what he wants from my position and the accountability is now on me to perform and do what he wants.
"We want to win the premiership, that is the ultimate and every team would be silly not to have that as their goal.
"Hopefully as the season goes on we build well, look to the finals and then get to the big dance. I will just do my job."