Eight-year contracts might seem old hat by now if you’re a fan of Chelsea Football Club. But the news that the reigning Betfred Super League Man of Steel Brodie Croft has penned a new deal with Salford Red Devils until the end of 2030 is massive for the player, for the club and for rugby league.
Croft was pivotal to the club making an unexpected run to the play-offs under Paul Rowley in 2022, his 32 try contributions taking them to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final at Old Trafford. And it was his absence which many people identified as the difference in the Red Devils’ 19-12 semi-final defeat to St Helens after he failed a head injury assessment prior to the match.
His impact on Salford and on Super League in general was enormous, so the announcement on Tuesday night that the 25-year-old is set to stay for the next eight years is monumental for the club and enormous for the sport in this country.
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Having at one stage been identified as a long-term replacement for the legendary Cooper Cronk at Melbourne Storm, Croft has lost none of his ability despite the difficult end of his spell in the NRL. And having made a big coup in bringing the half-back to Super League in the first place, Salford’s director of rugby Ian Blease and CEO Paul King have excelled themselves in tying up Croft for the next eight years.
Of course, contracts in sport don’t always get honoured down to the very end, and this deal reportedly contains a number of clauses, chief among which is one that would allow Croft to return to Australia if the Red Devils’ valuation is met. He now becomes a marquee player at Salford, the first in the club’s history under the rule – which always clubs to spend beyond the agreed regular limit per player.
The underlying intimation with this deal is that Salford don’t want to find themselves in the same situation the landed in with Jackson Hastings. The former Manly Sea Eagles and Sydney Roosters half arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium after disciplinary issues had made him untouchable to many NRL clubs, and he was an absolute revelation as he helped to keep the Red Devils in Super League in the Qualifiers competition in 2018.
But less than 12 months into a two-year deal, Hastings was announced as a Wigan Warriors signing for the 2020 season, leaving Salford with little in the way of compensation and having lost their star player to a Super League rival.
In extending Croft’s stay until 2030 – he was initially contracted to the end of 2023 – Salford are retaining a right to hold on to their key asset unless a near-world-record transfer fee is offered. They are defending themselves from potential Super League interest too, given that the release clause is specifically related to NRL advances.
And in the structure of the deal, which sees the half-back signing until the 2027 season with three years’ worth of club options added, it means Salford can legislate for a significant drop in form later down the line as the player enters his thirties.
It really does appear to be a no-lose deal for everybody. Croft will be well paid and well backed by the Red Devils, and will get the option to return home if the desire is there in the years to come. Salford have made themselves bullet-proof to rival offers for the foreseeable future and now have the best half-back in the competition available to them for upto eight years. And Super League has a marquee name driving forward one of the pretenders to the throne which for so long has been the preserve of St Helens, Wigan and Leeds Rhinos.
This really is a game-changer.
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