Brodie Croft is looking forward to stepping outside Cooper Cronk's shadow – but it might take some time.
The 20-year-old Storm halfback has spent the past few months guiding the NRL team around like his former mentor, and is now hanging his boots where Cronk did.
"It was pretty special actually; the first day of pre-season I got given his locker," Croft said.
"That took a lot to get used to. It felt like I was sitting in his locker and the boys have been good in telling me you've got to make that locker you're own now. It's been different. I've learned a lot off him over those two years. I've looked up to him as a kid – and am now walking in his footsteps in training.
"It's different not having him around here, but I believe I've learned a lot that I can go out and do my job for the team."
During his final days at the club, Cronk took the young prodigy aside and left him with great confidence to do a good job.
"When he left we sat down and spoke about it all," Croft said.
"He was really good about it and wished me all the best. He put a lot of confidence in me as well, saying how he believes in me, and that how I was ready for it now. That certainly gives me confidence for the season."
Croft has played the last 18 months in the Intrust Super Cup, biding his time and playing against bigger players. This year represents a chance to cement a spot in the NRL.
"It's certainly a massive carrot for me. I've been working all my life to crack the NRL – I've had a few chances here and there, and getting the gig for round one I want to do everything I can to cement my spot and play consistent football.
"That's what the coaching staff and Melbourne coaching staff are looking for."
Coach Craig Bellamy and the coaching team have given Croft the licence to make the halfback spot his own. The young half has enjoyed the extra responsibility.
"They told me, 'If you are going to be the number seven, you're going to have the confidence to call the shots'," he said.
"And obviously with players like Cam (Smith), Billy (Slater) and the team, with what they've done in the game, you can get overawed by it. I've been working on myself to make sure when I go out there, I don't worry about what they've done I guess, just doing the best job that I can."
Croft said his running game helps to unlock attacking opportunities. He's ready for round one.
"I like to think I've got a decent running game which keeps the defence honest," he said.
"It can open up my passing game and many opportunities out there for the players outside of me.
"I'm coming into a really strong edge of the field – Suliasi (Vunivalu), Will Chambers, Felise Kaufusi – they are all international players. They've helped me develop into what I want to be this year."
Slater to miss season opener