Gus tried to have Benji comment cut from TV

1 month ago 15
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As another one-time prodigy in Brodie Croft departs the NRL for the Super League it's a sobering reminder of the media's propensity to doom a promising career before it even has a chance to get off the ground.

The former Melbourne Storm talent burst onto the scene in 2017 and within the blink of an eye had the media waxing lyrical about the heir apparent to Cooper Cronk.

With a pedigreed development through the Queensland system and a blossoming running-game fine-tuned under the experienced hand of Craig Bellamy and Storm head of football Frank Ponissi, there didn't seem to be much out of reach for the 20-year-old.

A high-profile switch in 2020 to glamour club the Brisbane Broncos under the new leadership of Dally M coach of the year Anthony Seibold marked Croft's first steps to carving his legacy in the game.

Brodie Croft will hope to cement his spot as Storm No.7 this season. (AAP)

Fast-forward not two years and the youngster once heralded as the Cronk reincarnate now finds himself setting sail for the Super League after being released from his duties at Red Hill.

It's a cycle not unique to rugby league, but one that NRL guru Phil Gould says he's seen too many times in his career.

Promise and potential comes at the cost of expectation. And sometimes that becomes debilitating.

"We've got to be very, very careful, or try to be careful with commentary, not to put too much hype around them because the Brodie Croft type scenario has happened over and over again in this game," Gould told Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

Under-fire Broncos halfback Brodie Croft. (Getty)

"I feel sorry for players in playmaker positions because the media tends to over-hype them early, immediately want to compare them to one of the greats and for any time they start to fall short of that mark, then the pressure and the scrutiny build.

"If you add that with the weight of expectation, they are given big contracts which carry great responsibility, we've seen this happen a number of times.

"Throughout the course of my experience in rugby league, it's that young fellas are hyped too much, paid too much, under too much scrutiny and expectation, and then when they fall short of these lofty expectations… when they don't suddenly rise to the level of an Andrew Johns, Cooper Cronk or a Johnathan Thurston then they're adjudged as not good enough for the NRL which is totally ridiculous.

"The media commentary really outraces development sometimes and puts a lot of pressure on these kids which is not necessary."

Phil Gould (Getty)

As a legend of the game turned media pundit, Gould is aware of the power his words hold for any player but assured he frequently strives to check himself and his colleagues when it comes to emerging talents.

But in a stunning revelation, the rugby league icon lifted the lid on the time he broke his own rule and attempted to have a piece of his commentary scrapped from a Nine broadcast when he likened a teenage Benji Marhsall to Brad Fittler.

"I did it myself in commentary, the first time I saw Benji Marshall," he said.

"Andrew Voss and I travelled up to do Friday Night Football at Suncorp Stadium and in those days the schoolboy competition used to be played before the first-grade game.

"We'd go up there and commentate that for Channel Nine because we had the schoolboy competition on Channel Nine. We were on the plane and he (Voss) said, 'Have you seen this kid from up there on the Gold Coast called Benji Marshall?' I said, 'I've seen snippets'. He said, 'Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this today.'

Phil Gould reveals his Benji Marshall commentary blunder. (Getty)

"And I remember saying to myself, 'don't overhype it, just be steady with it.' Anyway, first time he got the ball 20 metres out from his own line he put a couple of them left-foot steps together and just zinged through them, ran 80 metres and scored in the corner. We showed the step on slow-motion replay and it came out my mouth that I said 'Look, I haven't seen a step like that since a young Brad Fittler.'

"Now I wasn't saying he was going to be a Brad Fittler but as soon as I said it I wanted to take back the words. I said, 'You dope, you've done exactly what you didn't want to do'. But it was, I hadn't seen a unique type of step like that. Benji had this jump in the air type thing where he went up and you honestly didn't know which way he was going to go and sometimes he went straight ahead. And of course, playing schoolboy football, it was just a bit too good for his opponents.

"Vossy is jumping around he's out of the seat jumping up and down with his microphone because he's found the next sensation in the game. When we went back to the replay and I saw the step head-on it just reminded me of the videos I'd seen of Brad Fittler as a kid. I had said 'I hadn't seen a step like that since a young Brad Fittler.'

"As soon as I said it I wanted to choke it. In fact, I went to Channel Nine after and said, 'Can we cut that out of the coverage?'. They said, no (we can't). So I thought okay we'll let it run. But thankfully, it didn't do him any harm, Benji. All the raps in the world didn't stop him because within two years he won a first-grade premiership with the Wests Tigers."

Benji Marshall kicks a field goal for the Tigers

Gould revealed he had since learned from his slip-up and had first warned his colleagues about placing too great an expectation on Croft when he burst onto the scene in Melbourne.

"In the case of Brodie Croft who first burst onto the scene only spasmodically when injuries came, but then he got his chance in there and I remember his first half-a-dozen games, everyone said 'Oh, he's the new Cooper Cronk'," Gould said.

"And I'm going 'Whoa', settle down', because Cooper Cronk wasn't doing this at his age and nor should he be expected to do and he needs to evolve into his career."

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