Brodie Croft is relishing the prospect of “ripping in” to his former team-mates at Headingley on Friday but says leaving Salford was not a decision he took lightly.

The 2022 Super League Man of Steel joined Leeds Rhinos in October in the most eye-catching off-season deal a mere eight months after inking a long-term contract that was supposed to keep him at Salford until 2030.

By a twist of fate, Croft’s first competitive match in Rhinos colours will come against his former club, and the Australian says the process of leaving – primarily to off-set Salford’s financial woes – was tough.

Salford Red Devils v Hull FC – Betfred Super League – AJ Bell Stadium
Brodie Croft will form part of a new-look Leeds line-up this season (Richard Sellers/PA)

Croft said: “I was quite settled at Salford, I’d just bought a house in Worsley and I loved the playing group and the coaches there. The prospect of leaving was a bit daunting and I didn’t know what to think of it at the time.

“There were days when I was thinking I would stay, then the next day I’d wake up and think, I’ll go to Leeds. When it came to it, it felt like the pros of coming to Leeds out-weighed those of staying at Salford.

“It didn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. I’m still good mates with all the people at Salford and I can’t wait to catch up with them after the game. But for the 80 minutes, I’m sure we’ll be trying to rip each other’s heads off.”

Rohan Smith file photo
Head coach Rohan Smith has rung the changes at Leeds Rhinos (Martin Rickett/PA)

Croft and his former Salford team-mate Andy Ackers, who also made the move to Headingley from the AJ Bell Stadium at the end of last year, will shoulder much of the burden of expectation as the Rhinos bid to force their way back into contention for silverware.

Rohan Smith’s side endured a 2023 campaign to forget, beset by injuries and an unsettled half-back pairing that saw Blake Austin quit for Castleford before the end of the campaign, and Aidan Sezer confirm a move back to Australia.

Along with an impressive array of other arrivals including Australian full-back Lachie Miller, much will once again be expected of Croft but the 26-year-old insisted: “It (the weight of expectation) doesn’t really concern me.

“I’m at the stage of my career now where I understand my own game and what I can bring to a team, what is expected personally of myself, and what I’m going to bring for the team. Hopefully that’s good for the team.

“When I was a kid watching Super League games Leeds were the team that were winning everything, and that was another part of this decision.

“I have got to pinch myself sometimes, because to get a chance to play for Leeds is pretty special. It is a privilege to pull on a Leeds jersey and I can’t wait for the season to come around and see what we can do.”