Brisbane playmaking icon Darren Lockyer has implored Brodie Croft to capitalise on a second chance and prove he can be the halfback that breaks the longest premiership drought in Broncos history.

Croft has received the ultimate show of faith from new Brisbane coach Kevin Walters, who has handed him the decorated No.7 jumper ahead of Tom Dearden for Friday night's season-opener against the Eels at Suncorp Stadium.

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The jury is out on Croft. He was purchased from the Storm last year to steer the Broncos to their first premiership since 2006, only to be axed 14 games into his Brisbane career in favour of Dearden as their 2020 campaign fell apart.

The 23-year-old has underlined his fighting spirit, unseating Dearden in the final week of the pre-season, but five-eighth legend Lockyer challenged Croft to stand-up where it counts in the premiership furnace - starting against the Eels.

"This is Brodie's chance to show what he's got," said Lockyer, the most-capped Bronco in history with 355 first-grade appearances.

Broncos halfback Brodie Croft is following in the footsteps of Brisbane playmaking legends such as Darren Lockyer (pictured right).
Broncos halfback Brodie Croft is following in the footsteps of Brisbane playmaking legends such as Darren Lockyer (pictured right).

"Brodie just needs to provide direction and a kicking game.

"Anthony Milford's natural game is to play what's in front of him, so it's important that Brodie takes control of the team and organises them.

"Brodie has clearly impressed 'Kevvie' (Walters) in the pre-season with his approach.

"His selection ahead of Dearden is a reward for his effort, but now he needs to deliver on the field."

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Croft faces a daunting first-up assignment against Parramatta counterpart Mitchell Moses, who famously carved up the Broncos in their 58-0 finals drubbing in 2019 and is under pressure to break the Eels' 35-year title drought.

The knock on Croft is that he is too robotic to handle playmaking duties on the run. But he impressed in pre-season in his only trial against the Cowboys, running strongly at five-eighth and setting up a try for Jake Turpin with a sublime around-the-corner pass that hit the hooker on the chest at full speed.

 

Brodie Croft has been rewarded for a strong pre-season.
Brodie Croft has been rewarded for a strong pre-season.

 

The sight of Croft crying after a loss to the Warriors last year was a sad snapshot of Brisbane's wooden-spoon season, but Lockyer believes his 53 games of experience was enough to edge out the 19-year-old Dearden.

"Like a lot of the players at the Broncos, Brodie needs some confidence and after last year their self-belief would have been dented," he said.

"Brodie probably brings a little more experience to the halfback position at this stage of his career.

"Tom had a decent season last year but over the course of your career, you are going to have some flat periods and times when you might miss the team.

"Brodie is a real pro with his preparation, he works really hard to prepare himself for games and he has played more than 50 NRL games now, so he needs to step up."

 

 

Walters said the ball is now in Croft's court to prove he is Brisbane's No.7 for the long haul.

"It's up to Brodie, it's not a decision I will make," he said.

"It's a decision Brodie will make on his performance (against the Eels).

"It's nice to know we have two playmakers available if required.

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"I went with Brodie because of his experience. He has played 40 more games than Tom.

"I have a healthy respect for both halfbacks and Tom can consider himself unlucky.

"I believe Tom has a great future here and we will put the work into him to make sure he develops into the player we know he can be.

"But this game is a big occasion for everyone so I just wanted to go with the experience of Brodie Croft in the halves."

Originally published as It's on you! Lockyer's blunt message to Croft


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