Talented Tiger: Luke Brooks. Photo: Anthony JohnsonThere’s a lot of talk about passing the baton when it comes to Luke Brooks.
But history shows that it literally hasn’t always worked out. Like the time he ran the anchor leg for Holy Cross College’s state 4×100 metre relay team in year 10.
”I got disqualified,” Brooks chuckled.
”I didn’t know the rules, you start at one point and are meant to get the baton there and I started before it. We won by a mile. A few of the boys weren’t taking it too serious and then we were disqualified.
”One of the guys who took it serious was blowing up – he threw his spikes right out of the ground. I was just laughing.”
There was almost another false start, albeit on a grander stage. It was the Tuesday before THAT debut. Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter told him he was playing. A lifelong ambition was about to be fulfilled. Or was it? In his previous game in reggies, Brooks was placed on report for a high tackle.
Unable to help himself, Under-20s coach Todd Payten came up to Brooks and said, po-faced: ”You’re suspended, you can’t play.” ”I had a feeling he was stitching me up,” Brooks said. ”So it was pretty funny.” History will show that Brooks played. And how. His first game was on the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was the grand old venue his late grandfather, Clive Johnson, had captained the NSW cricket team alongside the likes of greats Richie Benaud and Bob Simpson.
To say he was nervous was an understatement.
”I was thinking about the game all week,” he said.
”Going to the ground, about halfway there, I remember really needing to go to the toilet. I had to run to the change rooms. The time I most got nervous was during the anthems, just standing there.” It didn’t show. The teenage halfback scored a try against the Dragons, had a hand or a foot in just about everything and was crowned man of the match. Due to second-tier salary cap restrictions, it remains his only NRL appearance.
”It was a dream come true, I always wanted to play for the Tigers,” he said.
”I really have to pinch myself because it’s weird playing with people you’ve looked up to. I never thought I’d get a chance to play with Benji [Marshall], it was good.
”It would have been good to play a few more games with him but at least I got one.” That he is playing at all is reward for perseverance. The former Australian Schoolboy badly broke and dislocated his ankle three years ago.
Complications, including a golden staph infection, meant he was sidelined for 15 months. In the second game of his comeback, he broke the other leg. And a broken thumb prevented him from participating in the SG Ball final series.
”I did [think about quitting] a bit but I always knew I wanted to keep playing,” he said.
He isn’t the only member of his family training on Concord Oval. His older brother Joel plays for the Wests Harbour rugby side which trains at the same field. The 21-year-old is currently trialling for a spot with the Waratahs. Another sibling, 15-year-old Scott, is a fullback in the Tigers feeder system.
Luke and Joel crossed paths when their teams set up a training camp at Kiama during the week.
”My older brother was in the ranks of the Tigers with the 20s and stopped playing footy,” Brooks said. ”He stopped for two years and got back into union with his mates.”
One of his own good mates is fellow playmaker Mitchell Moses. The pair were the gun athletes at Holy Cross, often sharing the school’s player of the year awards. Injuries have prevented them from combining often – Moses broke his leg and has been hampered by hamstring and calf problems – but the pair are earmarked as the long-term Wests Tigers halves.
They have come through the grades together, although they have also played against each other. Moses spent part of his junior career at Parramatta and Brooks recalls a particular time they clashed.
”He actually threw me an intercept,” Brooks recalled.
”It actually looked like he threw it straight to me. He was pretty filthy.” Moses has been named for the Tigers’ first trial, while Brooks will be missing from the Nines tournament. The latter suffered stress fractures last year and the club are mindful of protecting him. His debut appearance was headline news and already there have been comparisons to Andrew Johns.
For a teen who has played just one game, they are unhelpful. It is not yet time for Benji to pass the baton.
”Sometimes you get noticed,” Brooks said of the newfound attention he has received.
”It feels a bit weird.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.