Crafty Croft continues to conquer
What can one say after such a heroic performance in just his second NRL game? What could anyone in the 17,124-strong crowd at AAMI Park say for Brodie Croft in his first game since his debut for the Melbourne Storm 364 days ago?
Kicking the game-winning field goal in a man-of-the-match performance to guide his side to a stirring 23-22 extra-time win without their Origin stars over a gutsy North Queensland Cowboys, there were no words for Croft and his parents to explain the moment either.
In the sheds after the game, the three of them took turns tightly embracing each other in stunned silence as Croft enthusiastically nodded his head, as if he were saying ‘yes we did it, we made it and this is our moment to share’.
Croft’s parents flew down from Queensland to cheer their son on proudly but only in their dreams could they have expected a fairytale finish that they will be boasting to friends and family when they return home.
"Mum was stoked and seeing them off the field was one of the proudest moments of my career so far," Croft said.
"I was thinking the other day that it has been 364 days since my last NRL game.
"It’s a fairly long time between drinks but I kept slogging away and the coaches gave me belief that my time would come and to be ready to put both feet forward.
"When it went into golden point I though this is definitely that moment I’ve been practicing all week and it was my time to shine.
"You visualise it, you dream about it and to go out there and put it into practice was an incredible experience."
What makes it all even more remarkable for the 19-year-old is the stunning resemblances to NRL superstar Cooper Cronk on and off the field.
Despite a 14-year age gap, Cronk and his protégé are virtually doppelgangers. They share the same position and play the same style. They share a similar poise and maturity and even sound the same with deep insight and thoughtfulness. And for intrigued NSW fans, he is a Queenslander too.
There’s little wonder Croft is known as Cronk’s clone in rugby league circles.
"Early on I didn’t know how to take it as it’s a positive but you want to make a name for yourself," Croft said.
"It’s not a bad nickname to have, the boys give me a bit for it but that’s one of the prime reasons I came down to Melbourne in the first place, to learn off someone like that and certainly with how things have unfolded for next year I’m certainly pushing my case and doing what I can to build up to the player I want to be.
"He is definitely my mentor and the main reason I came down here was to learn under him and hopefully one day possibly take his place.
"In the meantime, I want to learn as much as I can from him as statistics show he got the golden boot last year and is the best player in the world. There is no better player to learn off both on and off the field.
"He’s been great guidance to me."
Croft’s feats to date are impressive and why so many are excited by the blossoming youngster who captained the Junior Australia Kangaroos against New Zealand earlier this year. Before he was named in the 2017 NRL Auckland Nines Team of the Tournament, Croft moved through the Queensland ranks, representing the Maroons under-18s and -20s sides.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy shared his excitement for Croft after the match for his game and hard work in his preparation.
"We don't just give a jersey to everyone, they've got to earn it," Bellamy said.
"After tonight Croft will be hungry to play a lot more I'd imagine.
"He's been playing Queensland-Cup, playing against men and handling it really well.
"Croft's field goal never looked like missing, he has been working hard on that at training all week."
There is one more trait that Croft’s parents hope their son continues with: that he decides against any impulses to get a tattoo, body piercing or other flamboyant item.
"Mum wouldn’t approve of that so I’ll keep to the clean boy image," he joked.
But there’s definitely no joking Croft has serious game as he continues to follow in Cronk’s footsteps and is destined to make his own name.