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Luke Brooks’ rise at Wests Tigers has mirrored Benji Marshall’s fall in Super Rugby
Date April 22, 2014 - 8:00PM
Nailing the winning field goal at an ANZ Stadium blockbuster was a case of life coming full circle for Luke Brooks.
The 19-year-old halfback was the toast of Tiger Town on Tuesday, hours after booting Mick Potter’s side to a thrilling win over the Eels in front of a crowd of more than 50,000.
Nine years ago, it was Brooks in the stands at a packed Homebush as a 10-year-old, sitting with his parents and his brothers as Benji Marshall and current teammates Robbie Farah, Pat Richards, Liam Fulton and Dene Halatau led the Tigers’ grand final triumph over the Cowboys.
‘‘I think we were sitting on the 10-metre line, so we had a pretty good view of it all,’’ Brooks said on Tuesday. ‘‘Watching the Tigers that year, they were awesome. I was a Tigers fan growing up … winning that premiership – I never thought I’d see the Tigers go all the way.’’
Brooks counts that occasion as the greatest rugby league memory of his childhood and, although he’s busy generating a new cherished collection, the shadow of 2005 lingers.
It was a wicked coincidence that on the day the teenager stood up on such a big stage, his hero Marshall – he of the wonder flick pass to Richards in the ‘05 decider that so wowed a young Brooks – signalled an intention to return to the NRL after a failed stint in rugby.
Like Marshall, Brooks was the subject of messianic prophecies by Tigers supporters even before his memorable debut at the SCG last year, but it was a daunting experience for the ex-Holy Cross Ryde schoolboy to train with his hero.
‘‘I found it hard training alongside him because I was in awe,’’ Brooks said. ‘‘I’ve always looked up to players like him. I found it weird playing alongside him.’’
Brooks said it would also be odd to play against Marshall. As strange as it might sound, it is inevitable as the Tigers, having invested elsewhere, have no chance of being the destination for Marshall’s second NRL coming.
Wherever his idol does end up, it will make for an intriguing contest when the pair of playmakers come up against each other for the first time.
Brooks gives Marshall plenty of credit for aiding his step up from under-age football, and having found his feet after only eight NRL appearances, it may be a case of the apprentice showing up the master.
‘‘He gave me some good advice last year and he helped me out with a few things on and off the field,’’ Brooks said. ‘‘He taught me how to handle the pressure outside of footy and then on the field as well, how to control the team and how to guide them around.
‘‘It would be pretty weird playing against him … but we’ll just have to wait and see.
‘‘It’s good for the game if he comes back.’’