Shattered Croft vows to fight for Broncos future
Luckless Broncos playmaker Brodie Croft says he has no plans to quit the club and has vowed to overcome a freak training accident to establish himself as Brisbane's starting No.7 next season.
In his only interview since being dropped last month, Croft opened up about his nightmare season at Red Hill and lamented the head knock that has ruled him out of Friday's clash against Parramatta.
Croft's inability to consistently organise Brisbane's attack saw him axed following a 36-8 loss against Canberra five weeks ago, but he was set to win a reprieve alongside Tom Deaden for the Eels showdown at Bankwest Stadium.
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Then, in a split-second moment that summed up Croft's maiden campaign at Red Hill, his comeback plan was shattered.
In the final play of Broncos training on Tuesday, Croft collided heavily with Broncos teammate Jordan Riki and hit the turf with a thud. The 23-year-old was senseless for several minutes and suffered a graze to the side of his head as he was helped from the training paddock to be assessed by Broncos medicos.
Croft has been cleared of a serious concussion but his hopes of a confidence-boosting return against the Eels have been dashed.
"I'm just so disappointed," he said.
"I had a really good session and was looking forward to coming back, then it came crashing down right at the very end.
"I have watched the footage of the incident and I blacked out straight away. It was the very last play of the whole session, so to get that knock in the final rep, I can't believe it.
"I was pretty rattled after it. I've had the check with the doctors and passed the tests, but it's not likely I will play this week.
"Jordan Riki ran a lead line on me and he clipped my head at a delicate spot. He is a big boy Jordy and I collided with his hip and I was gone.
"It just sums up my year but hopefully I can make it back next week (in the final round) against the Cowboys.
"I played well against them in round one (in Brisbane's 28-21 victory in Townsville) so hopefully I can finish up against them next week."
Like Anthony Seibold, the fallen coach who lured him from Melbourne last summer to be Brisbane's main man at halfback, Croft's season has not gone according to script.
Seibold believed the Dalby product could help the Broncos break their 14-year premiership hoodoo. Instead, Seibold fell on his sword as the Broncos crashed into wooden-spoon territory with 15 losses from 16 games.
Since leading the Broncos to consecutive wins in the first two rounds, Croft's game has fallen apart. The pressure was palpable in round eight in July, when Croft shed tears on the field after Brisbane's 26-16 loss to the Warriors.
Seibold may have moved on, but Croft is determined to remain at Red Hill as he looks to challenge Dearden for the halfback spot next season.
"It's been a frustrating year for everyone, myself included," said Croft, who is contracted for another two years.
"I will get to the off-season, freshen up, have a look at myself and come back in pre-season with a new focus for 2021.
"Overall, it's been a tough year personally. Things haven't worked out how they planned to work out in my head coming up here. It's been frustrating in that sense, but I feel I have been stronger for it and it's built me as a better person.
"At the time, I probably deserved to be dropped. As a team we weren't playing to expectations and I wasn't playing to my capabilities. I know I can be better and that's frustrating for the team and myself. The coaches wanted a change to see how Tommy would go in the halfback position and I had to accept that, but I'm taking it in the right way and try to get better.
"In saying that, I want to stay at the Broncos, 100 per cent. I am looking forward to the challenge and that's how I'm looking at this, as a challenge going forward. It excites me that come the off-season, I will get a good break to freshen up and I want to go hard next year and try to win back that No.7 jersey for round one next year."
Croft, who has played 14 games for the Broncos this season, dismissed suggestions he has struggled to cope with the expectation to succeed at the NRL's richest club.
"I wouldn't say there's a greater expectation at the Broncos," he said.
"Coming from Melbourne, we had high standards and there is an expectation to perform because of the history of the Storm under Craig Bellamy, so it's a lot like the Broncos.
"The biggest difference is probably the constant media attention. In Melbourne, you can get away with it, it's a mad AFL town, there's not many cameras at (Storm) training, but at the Broncos, it's a one-team town and there is always scrutiny on the Broncos.
"I haven't lost faith in myself or my ability. I know what I am capable of and now it's about going back to the drawing board and playing to my strengths which is why the Broncos signed me in the first place.
"I'm not going to whinge about things. I'm definitely here to stay and I will do whatever I can to help this great club rebuild."