Kevin Walters has made a potentially career-defining decision ahead of his first game as Brisbane Broncos coach and deserves the chance to prove it is the right one.

Walters' decision to start maligned playmaker Brodie Croft in the all-important halfback role ahead of young gun Tom Dearden against Parramatta on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium is the unpopular decision among Broncos' faithful.

The fans want Dearden to be given the No.7 jersey made famous by Allan Langer.

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The blond-haired halfback is Brisbane's great white hope, not so much because of what he has done in his 17-game NRL career, but more because of what he hasn't.

Dearden is yet to fail and implode like Croft did last season in what was a tremendously tough year for the Melbourne Storm recruit, who was reduced to tears after a loss to the Warriors and later dropped.

Brisbane Broncos halfback Brodie Croft had a tough 2020.
Brisbane Broncos halfback Brodie Croft had a tough 2020.

While Dearden did not taste victory in any of his 12 games for the Broncos last year, he didn't genuinely fail and has shown signs he could be a star of the future.

The Broncos are in such a state that is enough for success-starved fans to demand his selection.

But the moment Walters starts letting the lunatics run the asylum is the moment his NRL coaching career will be toast, regardless of who is right.

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At 19, time is on Dearden's side. He has plenty of talent but is a long way off being a dominant NRL playmaker.

There appears to be more upside in Dearden than Croft, who has so far justified Melbourne Storm super coach Craig Bellamy's decision to release him to Brisbane.


But Walters has made a judgment call and will live or die by the result. It is his job on the line.

If Croft fires, Walters will look like a genius who saw something that many others didn't. His reputation as an NRL coach will immediately improve.

If Croft fails again, the knives will be out for Walters and he will have to swallow his pride and bring Dearden into the team.

It will look like a missed opportunity to continue the development of a rising halfback, potentially costing the Broncos crucial wins early in the season.

After striving to secure an NRL head coach's job for the past decade, Walters' wish finally came true following the sacking of Anthony Seibold last year.

The Croft selection shows Walters is not afraid to make big calls in his attempt to bring the Broncos back to life following last year's wooden spoon horror.

Kevin Walters got his wish to become Brisbane Broncos head coach. Picture: Adam Head
Kevin Walters got his wish to become Brisbane Broncos head coach. Picture: Adam Head

The easy decision would have been to pick Dearden and play for the future, hoping he delivers on his promise.

Instead, Walters has thrown his support behind Croft because he believes that will give the Broncos the best opportunity of winning games.

But the first-year coach will get little sympathy from the Broncos' passionate fans if he gets this one wrong and that is something he must be ready for.

Originally published as Walters puts career on line with shock selection