Brooks has nothing but respect for mentor Benji Marshall

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Brooks has nothing but respect for mentor Benji Marshall

Post by willow » Sat 26 Jul, 2014 5:42 pm

Wests Tigers' Luke Brooks has nothing but respect for mentor Benji Marshall

July 25, 2014 - 8:00PM

Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster
Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

In 2005, the apprentice sat on the 10-metre line at ANZ Stadium and watched the master steer and flick pass his side to a breakthrough premiership against the Cowboys.

Last year, the apprentice was in the rooms at the SCG about to make his debut, and the master delivered the assuring words about the time he played his first match.

On Sunday, at ANZ Stadium, Luke Brooks finds himself in an alien place – trying to bring down Benji Marshall, instead of idolising him.

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“I don’t think I could,” smiles 19-year-old Brooks, whose Wests Tigers meet Marshall’s new club St George Illawarra in a critical match in the context of the season for both teams. "It’s awesome for the game that he came back from rugby union. It would’ve been tough for him, coming back and playing for a new team.

"He’s starting to show what he’s worth. He’s come along a lot. Maybe the change was good for him to get his best footy out. We all know what he can do. He’s still one of the game’s best players, and someone I look up to. Benji was my idol growing up as kid, as a Tigers fan."

Brooks’ memorable debut at the SCG last year, with the master shifted to the centres as the apprentice took his place in the halves, won’t be easily forgotten.

“Benji let me play my game, like Braith Anasta," Brooks recalls. "Braith controlled the game. They said, ‘Chime in when you want’. They were great to me.

“Benji did give me advice before that game. He was just telling me what it was like when he made his debut. Just to keep calm and play my natural game. To play with him was something special."

It is memorable for Brooks but the world has turned dramatically for the master and apprentice since then.

Marshall has converted to rugby, but then converted back to league.

His relatively solid form since returning after an aborted stint with the Auckland Blues has been pivotal to the Dragons turning their season around.

Similarly, Brooks has rediscovered the mature style of play he showed earlier in the year as the Tigers attempt to stay in touch with the top eight, amid speculation about the tenure of coach Mick Potter. His combination with former Holy Cross Ryde teammate Mitchell Moses in the dismantling of the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium last Sunday has resparked their season – even if it has not necessarily saved the coach.

The easy assumption is that the Tigers’ improvement vindicates the decision to push Marshall out last year.

Brooks says he sympathised with his hero.

“It was tough on him,” he says. “I don’t think he read into it too much. He was all right. The whole place was down because we weren’t winning games. It’s been a change up this year, with new people coming in. There’s a good vibe around the place. People are having fun.”

To that end, he won’t buy into talk that Potter is poised to be sacked – or stay, depending on who you talk to.

“He gave me my first shot at first grade,” he said. “I try not to get into those things; not get involved in the coaching dramas. I leave that to the board. But Mick has been good. All of the coaches, Todd Payten and David Kidwell, have.”

Potter’s future is sure to be a sharp point of discussion after Sunday’s match, but everyone is thinking about the battle between the master and the apprentice.

Marshall said earlier this week he "felt sorry" for Brooks because of the pressure placed on his young shoulders, not least the premature comparisons to Andrew Johns, the eighth Immortal.

Ask Brooks if he has pictured the thought of stepping around Marshall this weekend and the youngster won't bite, like a seasoned veteran.

"Yes," he shrugs. "Hopefully."

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