Matt Encarnacion, Western Sydney Correspondent
Long before any of us had heard of Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses has seen more than enough of his high school mate to know he was going to be one special player.
But this other bloke, the one they reckon Brooks plays like, the one they call the Eighth, he hadn't seen as much.
"I remember we played a school game and Brad Fittler was watching – commentating, actually – and he was just saying [Brooks] reminded him of Joey so much in the way he plays," Moses says.
"From then on, you watch Joey's old videos and you realise, yeah, he is a pretty similar player."
We were intrigued: what was it that gave it away? Was it the familiar banana kick? The three-man cut-out in the clutch? Or perhaps it was the trademark sizeable behind?
"Well, he's got the same body shape," Moses says without hesitation. "And I think he's a bit quicker than Joey, the speed he plays at. But taking nothing away from Joey, Joey's the best in the game. [But] I think Luke's got a lot of similarities in the way he passes the ball and stuff like that."
Together, they're the once-in-a-generation partnership eight years in the making that the club has banked its future on.
But separately – Moses says he's never been compared to anyone before – Brooks has apparently become the ultimate street-stopper, mostly because he got the jump on his slighter mate in starting his NRL career.
"We were pretty even [before], but probably Luke a bit more in the last couple of years. He made his debut last year, so probably him. But he handles it pretty well, nothing really fazes the kid," Moses says.
But now that the nephew of a Tigers legend has finally arrived, Moses says so will the real Luke Brooks. In recent weeks, Moses had noticed some subtle changes from the kid that made his debut against the Dragons last August, beginning with a voice that hadn't been there through school.
"I was more of the talker and stuff. I don't think Brooksy really lived up for that role," Moses says.
"But now he had to. He had to be that dominant part whereas Braith was helping out there. But now with Austo there, I think he's got to be that dominant half.
"Honestly, at the start of next year, I reckon you'll see the best of him. He's only just coming out of his shell now. He's only just bossing the boys around now at training and stuff.
"He's really taken, I wouldn't say a leadership role, but he's really taken that halfback role on where he's bossing the boys around and telling them where they are. Just really getting up them and stuff."
In the same month Brooks made his NRL debut, Moses penned a four-year contract with the Tigers on the premise that he'd be playing alongside the kid he grew up alongside. Just one month before, Brooks committed to the same deal, instantly building a foundation that has given hope to a long-suffering fanbase.
"I've always seen that I play my better footy with Luke," Moses says. "We know each other's game inside out and he was one of the main factors as to why I stayed, and also the other boys staying. I had a chat to Nathan Brown, Curtis Sironen and players like that. They were all happy to stay."