Rugby League Immortal and fellow Maroons legend Mal Meninga has criticised Kevin Walters’ decision to drop halfback Brodie Croft for Brisbane’s ugly 40-6 loss to the Storm.
Walters was made to pay for losing sight of the bigger picture while playing mind games with rival Craig Bellamy in the lead up.
A day out from the clash, he tried to get in the legendary coach’s head by claiming Croft would start the game with Tom Dearden to warm the bench as 18th man.
However, Dearden started the game instead of Croft, with the former Storm playmaker demoted despite playing a leading hand in the Broncos lone win of the year over the Bulldogs.
Meninga was at a loss to make sense of Walters’ poor decisions at the selection table against the NRL premiers. Dearden failed to make his mark on the team as the Broncos let in seven Storm tries to lose their third match of the season.
“I’m no clearer on his (Walters’) reasoning … do you change your halves when you have a victory?” Meninga said on Fox Sports.
“I hope they (Croft and Dearden) know the reasons, I hope those conversations are going on behind the scenes.
“The dilemma is when did Tom know he was starting … and when was Brodie told he was on the bench?”
The decision to start Dearden blew up in Walters’ face and the coach’s ill-advised call is difficult to defend considering Dearden only played seven minutes in the win against Canterbury last week and failed to make the Broncos’ 17 in the opening two weeks of the year.
Walters’ plan to give the playmaker the starting role against the NRL premiers with just seven minutes of NRL football to his name, ahead of the in-form Croft, could have severe implications for the team’s chemistry and the players’ trust for the new coach.
Ryan Papenhuyzen scores try No.4 in just the first-half
Croft was brought onto the field with just over a quarter of the game left against Melbourne, with the Broncos down by 18 points. When asked what triggered the selection change, the Broncos coach said Dearden deserved to start the game after scoring a try off the bench against the Bulldogs.
“I just thought that Tom was pushing his way through there,” he said.
“We had to give him an opportunity. Brodie has been playing good, but it was an opportunity for Tom.”
As for the result, the former Maroons coach lamented the 11-minute period that resulted in Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen ripping his team to shreds with four tries.
“That period was damning for us,” he said.
“We have to look at that area. That’s three times this season where the opposition have put on two, three or four quick tries on us … that really hurts.”