Wests Tigers coaching staff are urging fans to be patient with the development of rising star Luke Brooks in 2014. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Teenage prodigy Luke Brooks might be hogging the spotlight, but Tigers prop Aaron Woods says it won't be long before he'll have to share it with some other Wests young guns.
Tipped by many as the second coming of Andrew Johns in the NRL, Brooks is the prepubescent face of the post-Benji era in Concord and is just one of the club's overflowing deluge of teenage talents set to be unleashed by coach Mick Potter in 2014.
Two of those youngsters include forwards Nathan Brown and Kyle Lovett, both of whom Woods has tipped to garner as much attention as the Tigers' little halfback has over the past six months.
Woods said the pair's performances in the pack for the under-20s last season allowed Brooks to shine in the National Youth Competition.
"You got to look at it this way: Brooksy's playing behind them, so if they don't go forward for him, he's not allowed to play," Woods told NRL.com.
"When they lost Browny for the semi-final for the -20s last year, they struggled a bit because he was their go-to man. He was making 200m a game and 40 tackles. And Kyle's on the edge, he was running off Luke, making him look good as well.
"Without those two players, I don't think Brooks does as much as what he has been doing. Those blokes have really pushed Brooksy into playing first grade."
Brown, 20, made his debut alongside Brooks against the Dragons in Round 24 last season, and is renowned for his Mark Geyer-esque confrontations in the middle of the field.
In fact, according to Woods, the Five Dock product had so much aggression both he and the club told him to curb his game or forget about first grade.
"At the start he was a bit too full-on but now he's controlled it a lot. Because he controlled it he was playing enormous footy and he got a game in first grade," Woods said.
"He's learnt from his mistakes. It's one of the hardest sports in the world, rugby league, and if your aggression isn't tempered you're going to get squeezed out.
"I just said to him, my biggest emphasis on rugby league is what you put in before the game. You know if you've done all the little things leading up to the game, you'll be sweet. If you haven't done your tip sheet, you haven't done your training, you haven't done all your injury protocol, you're going to go into the game not being sweet."
Lovett, like Brown, helped the Tigers to the under-20s crown in 2012 before leading the side to the semi-finals last season.
"We call him 'Sarge' because of his hairdo, he looks like an army dude," Woods says. "But he's just a workhorse too. He'll never let you down, he's very professional and everything he does is 120 per cent. I reckon they'll both have big years."
Both Brown and Lovett could feature in the Tigers squad for the Auckland Nines, where Wests are considered second favourites to win the title.
Fullback James Tedesco, who played 19 of his 20 NRL games in 2013, said the tournament would be the perfect opportunity for the club's young crop to prove they were the real deal.
"It's a good opportunity. There's a lot more room and space for you and it'll bring more confidence if we go good over there, some of the younger boys have a go and go pretty well," Tedesco said.