Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks goes back to basics to deliver on NRL promise

Looking for more consistency: Luke Brooks. Photo: Getty Images Delightful debut: Luke Brooks on the charge against the Dragons at the SCG in 2013. Photo: Brendan Esposito
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Luke Brooks has been saddled with high expectations since he starred on debut as an 18-year-old, his tyres pumped up by the likes of Andrew Johns and a breakthrough to the representative ranks seeming just a matter of time.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way, and nearly three years on from that eye-catching arrival in the NRL against St George Illawarra, and having just agreed to an option to remain at Concord Oval next season the Wests Tigers halfback along with halves partner Mitchell Moses admits being singled out as a superstar in waiting has at times been difficult.

“It’s not something we asked for,” Brooks said before Friday night’s match against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

“It’s probably the same people who pump who up who bag you after a bad game. It’s something I’d rather not have but I guess I’ve just got to play the play I play and try to play my best footy.

“At first I didn’t think much of it, but it probably has (affected my development) a little bit. (But) I’m not using that as an excuse.”

The rich promise of Brooks and Moses, both 21 and both earning about $600,000 a season, has been spoken about ad nauseam, with an anticipation that they and fullback James Tedesco, 23, can be the driving force of a successful Tigers era in coming years. While Tedesco has unquestionably delivered – if not for the shoulder injury he suffered against Souths in April he probably would be the NSW State of Origin fullback – the club’s young six and seven still have much to prove.

Canterbury were among the clubs reportedly interested in Brooks but after stretching his contract decision close to last Friday’s deadline he says it is at the Tigers where he is best placed to do that. “I think I feel comfortable here,” he said. “All the teammates around me are really close to me. That made it pretty easy to stay and I think we’ve got a good future at this club. My manager was in talks with a few clubs but it didn’t come to anything and I was just happy to take an extension.”

Brooks was criticised last month by Johns and Peter Sterling, principally for not getting his hands on the ball enough. He’s taken that on board, and going back to what made him such a standout as a junior. “I’ve been running the ball a bit more; that’s something I want to keep doing,” Brooks said. “That was one of the better parts of my game growing up, so that’s something I want to keep working on, taking on the line.”

Tedesco, meanwhile, enters Friday’s game a far more confident player than when the Tigers met Souths in a corresponding fixture early last year. On that occasion he was clearly targeted by opposite number Greg Inglis, who at one stage ran over the top of him to score a try and let him know about it afterwards. Tedesco was being mentioned at the time as a possible Origin selection and the treatment from Inglis may have been a little bit about putting him in his place. Whatever the case, 15 months on, he feels far more prepared to deal with whatever comes his way on Friday.

“I think back then I was probably a bit intimidated by his name and by his figure,” Tedesco said. “But I think I’ve learnt from that and we’re all individuals … if you get it too much in your head that’s when your performance will go down. I’m not too worried about the opposition or him.”

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