Broncos coach Kevin Walters has dropped the first selection bombshell of his career with Tom Dearden set to be axed as halfback in favour of Brodie Croft for Brisbane's premiership opener against the Eels.

Walters has wasted no time putting the entire Broncos squad on notice after the sight of Croft training at halfback on Tuesday - at the expense of young gun Dearden - ahead of Brisbane's round-one Parramatta showdown on Friday week.

Dearden has had the inside running in pre-season with the 19-year-old starting at halfback in Brisbane's final trial against the Cowboys at Redcliffe last Saturday night.

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The boom teenager finished last season as Brisbane's first-choice halfback, displacing Croft to play 10 consecutive games in the No.7 jumper, but the tables were sensationally turned at Broncos training on Tuesday.

Croft called the shots alongside five-eighth Anthony Milford, who has been cleared to return from a fractured hand, leaving Dearden to run with the Renegades outfit in an opposed session.

Walters told The Courier-Mail he hasn't made a definitive call at this stage, but Croft appears to have edged in front of Dearden just 10 days out from Brisbane's season opener at Suncorp Stadium.

 

"I am looking at different combinations at my training sessions and I will make a final decision next week," Walters said.

"Tom and Brodie are neck and neck at this stage.

"Tom did some good things in the trial last week but Brodie was also very good so I have a tough decision to make.

"It's a good headache to have because you want players competing for positions."

Dearden appeared to play strongly in the first half against the Cowboys, but lost control of Brisbane's attack in the second stanza as North Queensland ran in five unanswered tries to win 34-18.

Croft played five-eighth in that game and produced a superb around-the-corner pass for Jake Turpin's try which gave the Broncos an 18-6 halftime lead.

Walters praised Dearden straight after the Cowboys trial but has clearly had a change of heart in recent days after having a more forensic look at the performance.

The fierce halfback battle is a sign Broncos jumpers are up for grabs as Walters searches for excellence and the right combinations following Brisbane's slide to their first-ever wooden spoon under Anthony Seibold last season.

 

Milford and Croft were Brisbane's scrumbase combination in last year's season-opener against the Cowboys and Brisbane's $1 million man said no-one is safe at Red Hill.

"The whole playing group needs to improve," Milford said.

"Getting that wooden spoon hurt a lot of the boys, especially the guys in key positions - our jerseys are on the line each week and we have guys pushing for sports regularly.

"If you don't perform each week, you won't be in the starting 17.

"They (Dearden and Croft) both do the same thing as playmakers. They both steer the ship around and are similar players, so it's Kevvie's headache to have."

Dearden's demotion would come as a blow for his future at the Broncos given that he is off-contract at season's end and being courted by the Cowboys.

For Croft, his recall would represent a triumphant comeback after his gut-wrenching debut season at the Broncos in 2020.

Kevin Walters at Broncos training at Red Hill. Pic Annette Dew
Kevin Walters at Broncos training at Red Hill. Pic Annette Dew

The marquee Storm recruit played 14 games but has not been seen in Broncos colours since August 28, when he was dropped by Seibold as Brisbane fell out of finals contention.

After another loss against the Warriors, Croft was so emotionally drained he shed tears at full-time, but Milford praised the playmaker's attitude in pre-season.

"Brodie brings a lot of experience," he said.

"He is from the Melbourne system and he has now had a year at the Broncos.

"Whoever steps up in the No.7 jumper will do the job for us."

Originally published as Broncos bombshell: Walters on No.7 selection shock


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