MVPs of 2014: Luke Brooks
As we count down to season 2014, NRL.com identifies 30 players who will be crucial to their team's fortunes this year. From new faces to rising stars to proven performers who will need to lift this season, these are our 'MVPs' for 2014.
We're not exactly sure what Luke Brooks and all his mates are doing in late July, but we'd bet the old scoreboard on Leichhardt Oval hill that they're not going to be in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day.
Not when Concord is undergoing a full scale youth movement of its own. And certainly not when the second coming of Andrew Johns is at the crux of it.
We realise it's ridiculous, outrageous and unfair – all at the same time – for any 19-year-old halfback to be mentioned in the same breath as probably the greatest player in the history of rugby league.
But when you snatch the set of keys from your franchise star and bestow them upon a kid barely out of diapers, then expectations will be set pretty high.
Somewhere along the line last season, Mick Potter and the Tigers hierarchy decided He Who Shall Not Be Named was no longer fit enough – both figuratively and literally – to lead this club into its next successful era.
Yes, a contract was on the table and yes, the club told everyone they wanted him to stay. But by mid-year, the decision to forge a new identity had been made. It was time to move on.
Indeed, it was a brave call from someone who held onto the clipboard by the skin of his fingernails, but it also helped that as fun as it was to watch Benji Marshall on a Sunday afternoon, the club's disenchanted fanbase had grown tired of all the sizzle that turned into fizzle.
Those of us on the outside were aghast. Why would the globetrotting Tigers rid themselves of the man who introduced space walking to rugby league? But by the time we remembered that this was indeed a results-driven business and that these free-wheeling Tigers were on their last legs, we were introduced to a kid who, for one game at least, showed that he could handle the perilous hype that has already devoured so many of the iGeneration by being labelled the saviour of a franchise.
Brooks was a teenager well beyond his years at the Sydney Cricket Ground late last August when he set up two tries – one a throwback short ball to fellow youngster Curtis Sironen and the second a deft grubber for another rising star in Tim Simona – before scoring one himself with what could appropriately be described as a Joey-like show-and-go.
Brooks, together with the likes of Sironen, Simona, James Tedesco, Marika Koroibete, David Nofoaluma, Sauaso Sue, Nathan Brown and Kyle Lovett, are a class of Wests Tigers kids whose ceiling has no limits.
And while a coveted premiership might be a pipe dream in 2014, a spot in the finals is definitely not a futile goal. We're betting that's exactly what Brooks and his recently out-of-school teammates will be vying for in late August, if Brooks lives up to expectations.