Croft not sold on 'Cronk 2.0' tag
He's been dubbed Cooper Cronk 2.0, but teen sensation Brodie Croft doesn't want to get caught up in the hype linking him to the Melbourne Storm No.7 jersey in 2018.
With Cronk set to leave the club at the end of the year, Croft is seen as the heir apparent tipped to continue the Storm's legacy for the next decade and beyond.
The 19-year-old made his NRL debut against the Dragons in 2016 and was named in the Auckland Nines team of the tournament earlier this year after he helped guide the Storm to a shock semi-final berth.
Still eligible for the NYC, Croft has spent all of 2017 in the Intrust Super Cup playing for the Easts Tigers who sit fourth after nine rounds with six wins and a draw.
Speaking to NRL.com in Canberra following the Junior Kangaroos' win over the Junior Kiwis, Croft said his main focus was learning from Cronk rather than turning into the clone everyone expects him to be.
"You certainly want to make a name for yourself but as the boys say, it's not a bad nickname to have on the side. I'll take it on board, but I'm certainly looking to expand on my own brand and create a name for myself," Croft said.
"It (playing NRL next season) is certainly a thought in the back of your head and it's the big elephant in the room at the moment with Cooper leaving at the end of the year.
"I'm just working hard to do my best each week because that's what the Melbourne Storm asks for. If my opportunity comes then that's great, but I'm just happy to keep playing good footy for the Tigers."
With speculation rife in recent weeks about the Storm securing the services of some of the game's biggest off-contract stars, Croft could be forgiven for worrying about his own future.
"I've been hearing all this talk since I first went down to Melbourne about other halves possibly signing with the club, and I guess that just makes me strive to be a better player," he said.
"Even if someone else does come down to the club, that's just another challenge for me to lift my game and become a better player."
Based on current form, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better young half coming through the ranks than Croft after he played a starring role in the Junior Kangaroos' 46-22 win over the Junior Kiwis on Friday.
Croft – who was originally named in the Queensland Residents squad – skippered the Aussies as they handed their trans-Tasman rivals a rugby league lesson to record their third straight win in the annual fixture.
The Junior Roos shot out to a 40-0 lead after 44 minutes, with Croft's three try assists and impeccable kicking game enough to see him named man of the match.
Given what we've seen from former Junior Kangaroos Nathan Cleary and Ash Taylor in the NRL, it wouldn't be premature to predict big things from Croft who was quietly confident of making the squad after a hot start to the year at club level.
"I wouldn't say it was a big shock because I've been pretty happy with my footy so far this year, but in saying that I was really humbled to be picked in the Residents team and then to be chosen for Australia," he said.
"I don't think it (the man of the match medal) has sunk in too much yet. This whole opportunity to play this week has been incredible. I've never made an Australian team before so to get picked and then be named captain was a huge honour and privilege.
"It's something that I've really cherished this week and it gives me goosebumps just talking about it. It's been an honour to lead these boys around and I'm so proud of them for what they did today.
"Weeks like this where you only have a couple of training sessions together, you don't really want to play a flamboyant style of footy. We just wanted to keep it simple and get the little things right and I think we did that today."