Ben Blaschke,, NRL.com
Sick of the utility tag that has followed him around from Parramatta to Wests Tigers, new Panthers recruit Tom Humble is hoping to make the most of Lachlan Coote’s season-ending injury by making the No.6 jersey his own at the foot of the mountains.
Unwanted by the Tigers at the end of 2012, Humble’s move to Penrith could prove a career-defining moment after he was named to replace Coote in the halves for Sunday’s clash with South Sydney at Centrebet Stadium.
With 21 NRL games under his belt after debuting with Parramatta in 2010, it will be the first time Humble has suited up in the No.6 jersey in first grade.
“I definitely see my best spot as being in the halves at 6 or 7,” Humble told NRL.com this week. “I played most of my junior footy there. I’ve slotted in to hooker or fullback a few times and I think I’ve even played in the centres once and on the wing once. I’ve played all over but definitely the halves is my most comfortable position.
“There is definitely a good opportunity for me here. ‘Walshy’ and ‘Cootey’ got first crack and unfortunately for Cootey he got injured but the opportunity is there now for me.
“It’s the same old story, you know? If the opportunity is there it’s up to me if I want to take it.”
The 24-year-old found it difficult to get into a groove at the Wests Tigers last year, with a relentless shift of positions seeing him play fullback, halfback, hooker and also off the interchange in his 15 games.
Humble said that although he had expected to remain with the Tigers this season, he jumped at the chance to head to Penrith.
“I had a one-year deal with a second year option the club’s way and I thought that was going to be taken up but it wasn’t,” he said. “There were a few things tossed up there late in the year and it didn’t work out so I went with the security of the Panthers. But I’ve always seen Penrith as a club I wanted to play for. It’s always been a club that I’ve had a lot of respect for so when the opportunity came to come here, I jumped at it.”
While Humble boasts just 21 games in the top grade since debuting for Parramatta in 2010, he said that he was confident of providing a good foil for halfback Luke Walsh as the Panthers look to bounce back from last week’s loss to Wests Tigers.
“Luke is probably the most dominant half at the club so for now I’d just like to take a bit of pressure off him with organising and a little bit of kicking,” he said. “I’d like to get my running game back but we’ve got a young backline.
“Guys like Josh Mansour has really started the year off well and Dean Whare is coming through strong – they’re going to be great players in a couple of years’ time. They’re good now but they’re only going to get better, and I hope I’m still around.
“We’re definitely building – I can see where the club is going and I think it’s a great direction.”
Humble knows he is in for a big personal battle with Rabbitohs five-eighth John Sutton on Sunday, who despite his side’s unbeaten start to the season has been mostly well contained by opposition defences.
Although Sutton leads all No.6s for running to the line, with 13 runs in each of his two games so far, coaches have clearly done their homework on him; despite offering a high five offloads he is yet to make a try assist, line-break assist or crack the opposition open.
Humble is hoping to develop an offloading and running game of his own, after making seven offloads and 17 tackle-breaks for the Tigers last year.