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CAMERON Smith says new Storm halfback Brodie Croft will be managed through his first season in the purple No.7 jersey using a Craig Bellamy formula road tested on the great Melbourne captain himself.
As with any young player who comes into a side in a key position, one of the biggest fears for Cooper Cronk’s replacement is his ability to be consistent through 25 rounds plus finals.
Speaking to Fox Sports, Smith confirmed the issue had been discussed in Melbourne and would likely result in Croft being rotated out of first grade at certain times in 2018.
But it’s not something Croft should worry about — in 2003 it was Smith being rotated by Bellamy, forming the foundation of one of the greatest rugby league careers ever.
“I think Craig has done that throughout his coaching career in Melbourne,” Smith said.
“I remember when I first started out in 2003, my first full season in 2003, I played six or seven matches to start the year and then I was moved back to the interchange bench, just to give me a bit of a break because it’s a big ask for the young guys to come in and play that type of intensity every week.
“He’s playing in a key position for us and there’s no doubt there’s going to be a fairly big target on his back when he plays against opposition teams.”
It’s at these times that Cronk’s loss will be most keenly felt, although Smith said there was every reason to be confident in the other young halves being groomed by the club.
Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy have built massive success together.Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy have built massive success together.Source: News Corp Australia
“At times we may see a slight rotation of that position, with guys like Ryley Jacks, Jahrome Hughes and Scott Drinkwater,” Smith said.
“But at the moment Brodie is training extremely hard and he’s giving himself a good opportunity to start the season really well.”
Already Croft is considered a Queensland Origin star of the future and his looks and mannerisms have drawn even more comparisons with Cronk than you might expect from a young gun replacing one of the best halfbacks of his generation.
However Smith said there were no expectations from within the club for Croft to influence games in the same way as his 34-year-old predecessor.
Quite the contrary, Smith said the expectations had been laid out simply and clearly.
“I think the key messages to Brodie this year is to play to his strengths,” Smith said.
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Brodie Croft has some outstanding senior players around him.Brodie Croft has some outstanding senior players around him.Source: Getty Images
“It’s not about trying to perform like Cooper Cronk did or to bring what Cooper brought to our side.
“He’s quite a different player although many people remark about the similar looks, the similar traits on the field.
“He’s got some different areas of skill to his game to Cooper and we’ve got to remember he’s only a kid, he’s 20 years of age, he’s played four NRL matches and he’s just starting out his career, so for me the messaging to him has just been about bringing his strengths to our game.
“Making sure that he’s working extremely hard through the week in preparation for every match, which he does already, and to give himself every opportunity to play consistently well.
“That’s what we need out of him this year, we don’t need anything out of him other than his best every week.”