Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Bromwich buoyed by leading side

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Kiwis skipper confident in leading his country after overcoming setbacks early in career at the Storm
Jesse Bromwich doesn’t have much captaincy experience  but isn’t daunted by the role. Photo / Getty Images
Jesse Bromwich doesn’t have much captaincy experience but isn’t daunted by the role. Photo / Getty Images

It seems hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Kiwis prop Jesse Bromwich didn't know if he had what it takes to be a professional footballer.

Bromwich will lead his country for the first time tomorrow night, and is established as one of the premier forwards in the sport. He has also been tipped to take over as captain of the Melbourne Storm, when Cameron Smith finally retires.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing. Far from it. Bromwich made his first grade debut at the 2010 World Club Challenge, and played the first three games of the NRL season. Heady stuff for a 21-year-old in his second season at the Storm. But then he was unceremoniously dumped.

"I told him he wasn't going to go anywhere if he didn't sort his defence out," recalled Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy. "He had a lot of work to do and we weren't going to give away a jumper ... so he barely played again that season."

Bromwich was barely sighted again that year, aside from three interchange appearances in August.

"It was a pretty big blow up I copped," said Bromwich. "There were a lot of swear words and he basically told me to get your defence right.

"That was a big moment in my career," said Bromwich. "I started the first four games and I probably did get a little bit ahead of myself. It was only my second year at the club but looking back it was one of the best things that ever happened to me."

The former Manurewa Marlin trained the house down during the following pre-season, and become a regular starter during the 2011 NRL season. A year later he made his Kiwis debut, at the 2012 Anzac test.

Since then it has been an almost constant upward trajectory, apart from a blip in the 2013 World Cup final, where he was one of a number of Kiwis forwards who were dominated on the night.

The last two NRL seasons have been particularly impressive. He has averaged more than 140 running metres for the Storm, as well as over 26 tackles per game, with many league pundits rating him the No1 prop in the sport.

And now Bromwich is leading his country. It was a surprise but he has settled into the role well. He addressed the team on Monday, outlining his expectations and their responsibilities, in a passionate speech full of some agricultural language.

Bromwich doesn't have much captaincy experience but isn't daunted.

"I was shocked at the start -- excited and nervous at the same time," said Bromwich. "But you need to step out of your comfort zone at some stage in your career. There is a little bit more pressure but I can't wait for it."

He also learned plenty from probably the best leader in the sport, playing beside Smith for more than six years.

"He is very consistent," said Bromwich of the Storm, Queensland and Australian captain. "He is very calm when it is tough but when you need a blow up he has got that in him as well."

The Kiwis will complete their captain's run this morning at Hunter Stadium, where Shaun Kenny-Dowall will go through a final fitness test. There was encouraging signs for the Roosters centre yesterday as he walked freely without his moon boat. But the final decision will be made by the management team later today.

- NZ Herald

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Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

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