Croft the best mentor for Dearden: Hodges

Laine Clark
Young Brisbane-bound former Storm playmaker Brodie Croft looms as a key asset for the Broncos

The arrival of "mini-Cooper Cronk" Brodie Croft at Brisbane may relegate Tom Dearden to understudy status, but ex-Broncos captain Justin Hodges says it will only benefit the young gun's NRL career.

Dearden, 18, looked set to take over Brisbane's halfback role after overcoming an ankle injury before news broke that ex-Melbourne playmaker Croft had signed a three-year deal at Red Hill from 2020.

While Croft's signing will knock the highly rated Dearden down the pecking order, Hodges said the former Storm No.7's influence would only make the teenager a better player.

Hodges said lessons learned under the likes of Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and Storm great Cameron Smith would make Croft the perfect mentor for Dearden.

While only 22 and with just 39 NRL games to his name, Croft has already earned comparisons with ex-Storm and Sydney Roosters premiership-winning half Cooper Cronk from Hodges.

As Queensland under-20s coach, Hodges said he had already got a taste of what Croft can offer and believed it was just what the likes of Dearden needed at this point of his budding career.

"I have spent a bit of time with Brodie with the Queensland 20s and watched him come through the ranks - he's like a mini-Cooper Cronk," he said.

"I know he is young but he is experienced and been around some great players.

"He's been through a wonderful system down at the Melbourne Storm. Their attitude, the way they train and the way they dedicate themselves to the game is only going to rub off on our boys.

"The young guys we have coming through like Tommy Dearden ... having a guy like Brodie there is going to help them - we need someone like that."

Croft's imminent arrival is set to spark another backline switch with Anthony Milford tipped to move back from fullback and combine with the ex-Storm No.7 at five-eighth.

Hodges agreed that Croft's organisational skills and kicking game would help unleash Milford's rarely seen running game.

"I think with his experience hopefully he can control the side and that frees up guys like Milford to roam around and play his natural game which is eyes up football," he said.

Brisbane director Darren Lockyer said Croft's signature had been "signed, sealed and delivered" but the NRL club is set to make an official announcement in the coming days.