Matt Encarnacion, Western Sydney Correspondent
Braith Anasta still remembers what it was like going from young pup to bull terrier, the day rugby league changed him from schoolyard prodigy to old school vet.
"I remember Chris Beattie from Cronulla got me really early on. But there was one where 'Piggy' (Mark) Riddell took me out late. Got sent off for it too," Anasta recalled to NRL.com.
So what did Anasta do?
"What'd you think I did? I jumped on him," he said.
"I was pretty young at the time. So was he. But I do remember times like that. You've got to dish it because you've gotta show that you're not gonna get intimidated by it."
And so the old folk tale recycled itself last Friday night, the wily Tigers veteran turning innocent bystander as he watched his rookie teammate and halfback Luke Brooks facepalm Rabbitohs lock Ben Lowe into the turf late in the second half.
Truth be told, it kind of took him long enough.
We were wondering how long it would take for the kid to rile up, given the bashing he copped in the first hour. Whether it was Ben Te'o running at him, or any one of the Burgess boys putting him on his bum after every kick, it was clear opposition teams had heard enough of this "Next Joey".
But three and a bit games of NRL was all it took for the Wests Tigers' greatest hope to say enough was enough. Like the Immortal himself, the 19-year-old took matters into his own hands.
"He hit me late, so I had to do something. I thought he hit my leg, so that's why I went after him," Brooks said.
"I think I've got to stand up a bit so they don't come back. They kept hitting me after the kick, but you've got to expect that anyway."
That's the thing about this kid. Every bloke at the club says he's got an old head on his shoulders, as if he were immune to pressure.
"There's been a lot of talk about Brooksy in the media," says teammate Aaron Woods.
"But I think he's one of the best kids because it doesn't faze him at all. It's so good seeing him coming to training blase about everything, doesn't really care, just gets on the training paddock, does what he's got to do. He goes home he's like your average kid, he plays golf and playstation.
"Just to see him come out, there was a lot of talk during the week that Souths were going to run at him but he took it head on."
To get an indication of the maturity of the kid, even after a steady performance that netted him three try assists – including an exact duplicate of the side-footer he dribbles in for buddy James Tedesco – Brooks always comes off the field remembering what he failed at doing.
"I've got a lot to work on. I'd like to run the ball a
bit more, get my hands on the ball a bit more, and work on my defence as
well," he said.
"I'll get a lot of confidence out of the win, but I'll
have a look at the things I didn't do well so that I can fix that up during the
The one thing he did do last Friday though, the most
impressive part of a surprising team performance, was that memorable faceplant.
"I loved it, that's what you want to see, you
know?" Anasta continued. "It shows he's not intimidated it. He's got
a real cool head on his shoulders. He's just got it.
"That reaction is what you want to see from your
halves. You don't want them to get bullied or intimidated. He was out there to
do his job and not take any shit."
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