Melbourne has moved seamlessly in the post-Cronk era, with new No.7 Brodie Croft starring in the Storm’s emphatic 38-4 World Club Challenge victory over Leeds Rhinos at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The 20-year-old Croft, who has just five NRL appearances to his name, scored a try and laid on three others in the rout – displaying many of the traits that saw Cronk become an all-time great during 12 seasons in the purple jumper.
The Rhinos took a ninth-minute lead through veteran winger Ryan Hall, but Croft sent Jesse Bromwich over for the Storm’s first try before muscling over himself to put the hosts in front in the 24th minute.
A blistering Suliasi Vunivalu try just before the break proved a crucial blow to Leeds’ chances.
Despite losing Billy Slater to a shoulder complaint at halftime, the Storm piled on four unanswered tries in the second half, the first going to rampaging man of the match Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Croft then set up Felise Kaufusi with a superb flat pass, before his cross-field kick resulted in a Will Chambers four-pointer to cap a five-star performance from the halfback that could have been more Cronk-like.
Slater’s injury scare put something of a dampener on Melbourne’s fourth World Club Challenge success, but club officials said his second-half absence was merely a precaution.