Broncos pull off signing coup
THE final piece of the puzzle for the Brisbane Broncos' premiership tilt in 2020 is set to be filled after reports the club is poised to sign Melbourne Storm halfback Brodie Croft.
The Courier-Mail reported on Friday night that the Broncos could announce the signature of Croft as soon as Monday, pending the No.7 gaining a release from the Storm at the weekend.
With news that Cameron Smith is set to play on next year, the Storm need to offload a player or two to stay under the salary cap for 2020 and are not likely to stand in Croft's way.
Croft was Melbourne's starting halfback for the majority of last season but lost his spot to Jahrome Hughes for the finals amid reports his playing style didn't gel with Smith.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold first met with Croft in September and there were times during Brisbane's protracted two-month pursuit when it appeared the Broncos would not have the salary-cap space to accommodate the Australian under-23s' halfback.
Croft spoke last month about a possible move up north.
"Hopefully that gets sorted out in the near future, sooner rather than later," he said.
"We discussed the potential there at the Broncos. It was a good conversation. But in saying that, nothing's been set down in writing yet."
The Storm had purportedly baulked at paying a major subsidy to release Croft, but The Courier-Mail said "well-placed sources say decisive progress has been made in recent days".
It's believed that the Storm will provide a minor severance package, enough to allow the Broncos to be able to offer Croft enough incentive to sign a two-year contract until 2021.
Melbourne officials have yet to formalise a release but coach Craig Bellamy is expected to give the green light over the weekend, clearing Croft to become a Bronco as early as Monday.
The Broncos have been looking at their playmaking options since crashing out in the first of the finals last season with a humiliating 58-0 loss to the Parramatta Eels.
Halfback Tom Dearden, 18, showed promise in a five games before his season was ended by injury but it's believed he will benefit from having a more experienced mentor to learn from.
Corey Paix is another young up-and-coming pivot in the Broncos ranks, but Croft will almost certainly assume the playmaking reins in 2020 should he receive a fresh start at Red Hill.
Under Seibold's plan, Croft will be Brisbane's first-choice halfback next season with Dearden to be his understudy, continuing the fine development he showed this year.
Seibold will use the preseason to settle on Croft's scrumbase partner but Anthony Milford is set for a return to the No.6 jumper, leaving Jamayne Isaako, Jesse Arthars and Queensland under-20s ace Tesi Niu vying for the fullback spot.
Since his NRL debut in 2016, Croft has played 39 top-grade games and featured in Melbourne's 2018 grand-final loss to the Roosters.