Brodie Croft has learned what coach Craig Bellamy wants from his halfback after what he described as a "big rollercoaster" of a season following the exit of club legend Cooper Cronk.
The year started with Croft playing a starring role in the 38-4 win over Leeds in the World Club Challenge and finished with a devastating loss to the Sydney Roosters in the NRL grand final.
In between he was in, out, in, out and finally back in the Storm side for the finals series as Bellamy gave Croft, Ryley Jacks and Jahrome Hughes cracks at partnering Cameron Munster in the halves.
"It was a massive learning year for me. A big rollercoaster, you could call it," Croft told NRL.com.
"It started well with the World Club Challenge but then I didn't have a great start to the NRL season …then worked my way back into the team and came as far as almost winning a comp.
"I went through just about every emotion throughout the year, so I learned a lot personally about myself with how I deal with those circumstances. Looking ahead to this year, I know that when I get in similar situations I've had that year of experience."
The 21-year-old started at half for the opening five rounds of 2018 but after three losses was dropped to Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup. There was a lot to work on but Croft discerned that Bellamy wanted him to ditch the tendency to seek the miracle play for a more measured approach.
"Craig didn't pinpoint one thing but one of the things he would have said is to play percentages, and that comes back to how I wanted to play my footy after [returning to the NRL side] and not over-complicating it," Croft said.
"That is all I was trying to do when I came back, to play the percentages, do what is best for the team and not overplay my hand. That seemed to work and I'll be trying to do more of that this year."
Cronk has left Melbourne but Croft studied his every move and still draws on what he gleaned from the master half.
"I got to walk in his footsteps for two years and learn everything I could off him. His professionalism is second to none," Croft said.
"Even when I wasn't talking to him I would watch how he would go about his business. That is what I still try and implement in my game, and not just into my game but in how I go about my business as an NRL player."
With Cronk and Thurston now out of the picture, Croft – who has been identified as one of Queensland's best up-and-coming halves and attended the Emerging Maroons squad's camp last weekend – knows how blessed he is to have been born in 1997 and not 1987.
"I have thought about that before. I timed it well there," Croft said.
"Those guys were up at the top of the game for so long but now they are gone it leaves a massive hole in that Queensland team … so it is a great opportunity for us young guys in the halves to really put our hands up and do everything we can to grasp that opportunity.
"Even at Melbourne I came in and had a good couple of years to learn under Coops and do my trade and work my way up. I'm still learning as it is."
Croft is ready to take on a more dominant role at the Storm after a season of growth.
"I wouldn't say it is my team. We have a lot of very good players in that team that I am fortunate to be a part of, but as a halfback you do want to have that confidence about your game and how you go about your business," he said.
"We've had a strong pre-season and I have been able to have more input into where we are going as a team, and I've got more confidence to have that input, so I am real excited about where things are going to go."