Man of Steel Brodie Croft hopes his unprecedented commitment to Salford Red Devils can signal positive change for Super League.
Croft, 25, signed a mammoth eight-year deal to stay with the Red Devils until 2030, believed to be the longest contract in Super League history.
His displays in helping Salford to the play-offs last season had attracted attention from Down Under and other UK clubs.
But managed to keep their man after months of negotiations, a hint that they too want to build a positive future and challenge for trophies having seen their previous successful sides picked off by supposed bigger clubs.
Convincing players to stay
There have been increasing concerns that Super League is being left behind by the NRL due to the increasing disparity between the respective competition’s salary caps.
England international John Bateman left Wigan to return to the NRL with Wests Tigers recently, while young stars Will Pryce and Kai Pearce-Paul are also heading Down Under.
Wakefield winger Lewis Murphy is being heavily linked to Sydney Roosters too, adding to concerns that Super League will struggle to keep hold of its top talent.
But Croft hopes his new deal will not only convinced young British talent to commit their future to Super League, but fellow Australians to make the reverse journey for the first time.
Brodie Croft said: “If I can have a positive effect on convincing players to stay in or move to Super League then I’m happy to be a part of that.
“I like to think it might have some positive effect, especially at Salford who may be seen as one of the smaller clubs, but they have a big heart and I’m fortunate to be a part of that.”
There is some unknown about the future of Super League at present, with IMG just getting started on their 12-year strategy to re-imagine rugby league.
What that might look like long-term remains to be seen, but one of their immediate challenges will be helping the competition secure a new TV deal beyond the end of this season, and particularly one that isn’t lower than present.
Greater focus on players
Keeping hold of big players, like Brodie Croft, will be important when trying to sell the game and creating more profile for players seems to be on the agenda.
Warrington trio Matt Dufty, Peter Mata’utia and George Williams popped up in the unlikely surroundings of Channel 4 TV show Steph’s Packed Lunch.
They opened up about their mental health and the different pressures they have been under in their lives.
For Mata’utia, that was opening up about a suicide attempt while Williams revealed a cancer scare in his late teens, while Dufty spoke about the difference in scrutiny compared to the NRL, which he compared with the media attention received by football in the UK.
Dufty, like Croft, has headed to Super League to re-ignite his career and will be hoping to have a similar impact and if he does, Warrington will surely want to follow the lead Salford have set with Croft and tie him down for years to come.
Dufty said: “In Australia, the NRL is a lot more like the Premier League is here.
“The media there is a lot more prominent. You have one bad game and you’re in the media the next day for playing badly.
“I didn’t really read it that much but I know my mum, dad and girlfriend read it. They’d call me and say ‘did you read the article?’ I’d say ‘no’. But it was affecting my mum, which would then affect me.”
Brodie Croft focusing on delivering silverware for Salford
Back on Croft though, the fact Salford have been able to get him to sign amidst interest from the NRL is a coup for them.
Queensland-born Croft came through the ranks at Melbourne Storm and made his NRL debut in 2016, before moving on to Brisbane Broncos in 2020.
He endured a difficult year in 2021 as the Broncos finished with the wooden spoon and in August that year, he signed a two-year deal to move to Salford.
Brodie Croft hit the ground running and finished the season with seven tries and 25 try assists, though sadly missed out on the play-off semi-final defeat to St Helens due to concussion protocol. Coach Paul Rowley hailed him as the best half-back in Super League, but has been keen to point out they are not a one man team.
He added: “I went through every scenario before I signed the contract and it came down to the stability I can give my young family, the confidence the club has in me and the joy I get from going to work every day for these boys.
“The bottom line was the burning desire to see what Salford can offer going forward, I am excited to grow personally and collectively as a team, and to have some silverware to show for all our hard work.”