I just watched his debut game again and wow what a debut! No wonder he’s been criticised ever since. If Johns himself had a debut that good he wouldn’t have replicated that performance for years.
I thought I’d do a bit of an analysis to see just what we have on our hands here.
Age: 21 (Born December 21, 1994)
Games: 47 (Debuted at 19)
Tries: 17 (just over 1 every 3 games)
2014 NRL Rookie of the Year
2014 Wests Tigers Rookie of the Year
2014 RLPA Rookie of the Year
Now, a lot of people argue he didn’t deserve those awards or that he did but it was a weak year. Sure that may be the case. A lot will say he had a poor 2015, without realising that he was responsible for almost all our playmaking with a team falling apart around him, a leader who was out of form, an even greener rookie beside him and the expectations of the world on his shoulders. People don’t realise that despite this Luke Brooks came out in 2015 and put up these stats.
16 try assists
26 tackle breaks
Compare that with another young half who had a great year, Anthony Milford.
17 try assists
So Milford, who was considered by all and sundry to have had a standout 2015, and rightly so, and was part of a team that made the GF, was marginally better in key statistics than Brooks. Their stats are so similar to have been virtually identical for statistical purposes. One could easily make the assumption that if their situations were reversed, Brooks would have had a far greater 2015 output. Imagine Brooks surrounded by the Broncos team? Life is all of a sudden much easier for the young man.
Let’s compare to Australian rep, Daly Cherry-Evans.
18 Try assists
Again, marginally better statistics, but this guy is an Australian rep and again, for Manly’s woes they were a better side than us in 2015. That aside, one would expect Daly Cherry-Evans to street a 21 year old who has had the proverbial boot laid into him for underperforming. Interesting to note he had a far greater tackle count, perhaps that could be why he apparently underperformed.
Now let’s compare them all to our Daly M Player of the Year, JT.
28 Try Assists
Consider that of the three, JT was a real solo act. Michael Morgan played more like a backrower at times and did very little playmaking. In the premiership winning side JT rightly outpointed the rest of the NRL in Try Assists but this is THE BEST player in the game and look at the other stats. Brooks played more games, scored more tries, made more linebreaks and considering he was in a hopeless side, his try assists wasn’t as far off JT as one might think, especially in light of the fact that he and Moses had a very even share of possession whereas at the Cowboys, JT had far far more touches than Morgan.
Finally let’s compare with Blake Austin. The man everyone whinged about leaving (myself included) who was touted as a NSW rep and had what seemed to be a standout year.
8 Try Assists
Clearly the stats reveal that Austin is a running player, he had half the try assists of Brooks. Impressive linebreaks and surprisingly not that many more tries than our young fella tbh. On these stats you’d take Brooks right, especially as a half? But Austin had a GREAT year and really showed us what a dumb move it was to lose him right?
Tell me why is Luke Brooks so maligned? He’s played over 40 first grade games and he’s only just turned 21. He’s played more first grade games at his age than Andrew Johns, Johnathan Thurston, Darren Lockyer, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cooper Cronk and Kieran Foran. His games have been as part of a team going through on and off field turmoil and he’s had to get it done beside other inexperienced halves. His senior players have had flagging form, he’s been through two coaches and he’s still putting up similar or better stats to other players considered to be going great guns.
Imagine if our forwards were damaging. Imagine if our defense was capable of helping him. If we had outside backs and backrowers who ran lines for him. How much better would he be already? Remember, he’s 21. He’s better at 21 than any of those I named were. Imagine how much improvement he has left in him?
He is still on track to be the great player he always was on track to be. I am excited for what happens in 2016, I hope some other players put in and let him develop with some pressure off.