Broncos should look south for Hunt replacement
RUGBY LEAGUE: Meet the teenager Justin Hodges believes can replace Ben Hunt.
While speculation continues to build around whether Brisbane will make a move to entice Ashley Taylor to break his contract and leave the Gold Coast, club legend Hodges believes he may have found another candidate.
Stuck behind International Cooper Cronk and whiz kid Cameron Munster, Melbourne playmaker Brodie Croft could be Brisbane's saviour in 2018.
The only problem is he's got a contract with the Storm until the end of 2019.
Still eligible for Holden Cup, Croft spent much of last season playing Intrust Super Premiership and has been elevated into the fulltime squad.
Having made his NRL debut against St George Illawarra last year, Croft is also a member of the under 20s Queensland Origin side.
With a wealth of talent and sharing similarities to a young Cronk, Hodges believes Croft could build a formidable partnership alongside Anthony Milford.
"There's a good young kid down in Melbourne named Brodie Croft, they won't let him go but he's just like a mini Cooper (Cronk)," Hodges told foxsports.com.au.
"I'm coaching our Queensland 20s side and he was in our camp. They need to target a kid like that and start building the club around him and Anthony Milford.
"They need to invest in a good young kid, stay with him and work on him and build a club around him."
Still only 19, Croft is viewed by some within the Storm ranks as the heir to Cronk's no.7 jersey although the master playmaker is signed until the end of 2018.
Even if the Broncos were interested, it's unlikely the Storm would be willing to release Croft, a player they've put so much time in grooming to make the next step.
"If you look down (at the Storm), Cooper's still got a few years left," Hodges said.
"They're talking about Munster at six. There's a talented kid like Croft waiting in the wings. There's probably talent like that waiting at every club. They need to pick someone up like that and try and bring him forward."
While the Broncos will likely hit the open market to find a replacement for Dragons bound Hunt, their top priority is locking Milford away.
Chad Townsend, Luke Brooks, Josh Reynolds, Shaun Johnson, Mitchell Pearce, Tyrone Roberts, Ata Hingano and Gareth Widdop are just some of the names off-contract this season.
But should they roll the dice and not recruit a new no.7 for next season, they do have utility Kodi Nikorima on the books.
His name has been tossed around a lot of late with Hunt himself backing the Kiwi for the role.
Former halves coach and Queensland Origin boss Kevin Walters knows Nikorima's game well from his time working with him at Red Hill and believes the pocket rocket could make the switch from bench nine to playmaker.
"Kodi's a good young player," Walters told foxsports.com.au.
"He'd be more than capable. Milford and Hunt are such a terrific combination. They've got to find someone."
While it's still unclear what role Benji Marshall will play this year, the veteran could possibly stay on for an extra season and fill the void.
In the short term he's expected to play a utility role and spend some time in the centres.
"The biggest thing is for him to work on his defence," Hodges said of Marshall.
"If Benji plays centre, there'll be the six and three defending together and two targets for the defence.
"He might come off the bench and use him like a Morgs (Michael Morgan) in Origin. Use him like a 13. Benji's biggest asset is his running game. Whether he plays centre or off the bench. He'll be slotting in somewhere."