Is this the year Luke Brooks vaults to the next level, meeting some of the lofty expectations and comparisons the halfback has been saddled with ever since that sensational NRL debut against St George Illawarra?
It’s an answer Wests Tigers supporters will be sweating on as they count down apprehensively to a season in which few, not even probably the faithful souls who lay down their blankets on the Leichhardt Oval hill hours before kick-off, would be game to tip their team as title or even finals contenders.
They’ve a budding superstar as a fullback, an international front-rower and a wily veteran at hooker, now that the Robbie Farah fiasco has been settled. The jury is still out, though, on the emerging five-eighth Mitchell Moses and also on Brooks after enduring something of the old second-year syndrome in 2015.
In the spotlight: Tigers coach Jason Taylor says Luke Brooks is continuing to make strides forward.
In the spotlight: Tigers coach Jason Taylor says Luke Brooks is continuing to make strides forward. Photo: Getty Images
Given everything that has gone on in the past six months Tigers coach Jason Taylor’s own future could well be entwined with how successful his young halves can be in steering his side around but he believes pressure on Brooks this season is unfair.
“Everyone wants to say ‘this is the year’, and I think that’s ridiculous,” Taylor said on Sunday. "I think he’s getting better all the time and he’ll continue to get better.
"Last season, being his second year [in first grade] which is always hard, I thought what he did was good. It’s always a tough year and I thought he did lots of really good things throughout the season and he continued to learn about the game.
“He only turned 21 just before Christmas … that’s not any reason that it’s OK for him not to keep developing but the idea that there has to be a line in the sand is not right.”
It is very early days indeed but the Tigers No.7 started the year in excellent touch when he was brought on in the second half of their first trial, against an understrength Melbourne Storm at Caloundra, on Saturday night. Onlookers on the Sunshine Coast noted that Brooks had returned with a more bulked-up frame but Taylor says “he’s not much heavier now than we want him to be”.
The next assignment for the Tigers will be to convince Brooks, as well as Moses, to take up options to extend their contracts beyond the end of this season, which they both have until June to do.
Until then, Taylor is intent on building on an off-season that while mired in controversy due to the Farah affair was rich in foundations for a campaign he hopes might surprise a few.
“When you don’t make the semi-finals you get a chance to start earlier than any clubs,” Taylor said. "We’ve got [a] really long and solid pre-season under our belt and we’re ready to play.
"Improving our defence is still No.1 for us as a club, still our biggest area of improvement. It’s where we are furthest behind. As far as our attack goes that’s been developing since we started together last pre-season.
“We definitely started quite structured which I make no apologies for, and the more comfortable they get with knowing their roles we can loosen it. That will be a continuing evolution.”
Taylor hopes the Tigers’ recruit from the Australian rugby sevens team, Jesse Parahi, may be fit to make a first appearance for the club in a trial against Cronulla at Campbelltown on Saturday after missing the first trial when he rolled his ankle in the captain’s run on Friday.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/wests-tigers/wests-tigers-coach-jason-taylor-happy-to-give-luke-brooks-time-20160214-gmtqq7.html#ixzz40IuVYu5r
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