Broncos lock Pat Carrigan says Brodie Croft's untapped potential made him an "easy scapegoat" but he expects the maligned playmaker to bounce back.
Croft played 14 games for Brisbane last season, his first with the club after four years and 39 matches at Melbourne, and was widely criticised as the Broncos finished last.
Despite captaining the team on several occasions when Alex Glenn was injured, Croft was moved from halfback to five-eighth before being demoted to the bench in his last appearance of the year.
However, the 23-year-old has been tipped to usurp incumbent No.7 Tom Dearden and rekindle his halves partnership with Anthony Milford for Friday's first-up clash against the Eels at Suncorp Stadium.
"If he wears the seven in round one, we'll be confident that he can go do the job and get us around," Carrigan told NRL.com.
Carrigan wants to make club legends proud
"I first started playing footy with Crofty when we were 16. He's always had that massive amount of potential, so the pressure probably makes him an easy scapegoat sometimes at some clubs.
"It's like if you're a halfback in Brissy or you're a halfback in Melbourne, you're the next Cooper Cronk or the next Alfie Langer.
"I think that's just something he's going to have to deal with for the rest of his career, but in saying that he works tremendously hard on his game and he's got the potential to be a great player because two pretty impressive clubs with good histories have signed him."
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Carrigan, 23, also had the chance to skipper the Broncos at points of 2020.
The emerging Queensland forward earned plenty of admirers when he and Glenn fronted the media after a loss to the Warriors last July and spoke passionately about turning the club around.
"The experience that I had [as a leader] - I'd probably change it for a few more wins, but what I've learned from it and being thrust into that arena pretty early has hopefully held me in good stead for the rest of my career," Carrigan said.
"It's certainly made me hungrier for 2021."
Asked if he sees himself as Brisbane's skipper-in-waiting after veteran Glenn retained the role for this season, Carrigan said he'll always strive to set an example.
"I had a couple of roles coming through the junior grades and stuff which is always cool. You get to test yourself," he said.
"I just try to be me and be honest with it. That's probably one good thing I'm learning from Lexi. He is who he is and it's pretty cool to see.
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"I'll just keep ticking boxes hopefully and picking the brains of the other good leaders out there, not only at the Broncs but in the [wider] game."
Carrigan admitted he found football less fun last year as Brisbane struggled. He said fingers were pointed, both internally and externally, at the players and coaching staff.
"A lot of the enjoyment I've had growing up comes from not only getting to play footy with your mates but winning games," he said.
"Last year it felt like there was a lot of hard work just getting washed down the drain and it takes a toll on you. I can definitely say I've loved getting back to the basics and just enjoying playing footy and enjoying competing with each other again."