Brooks refuses to take backwards step
He may be one of the smallest players running around in the NRL today but Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks is refusing to take a backwards step as he looks to lead his team out of their recent run of poor form.
With the Tigers attempting to reverse their six losses over the past eight rounds, Brooks – the most prolific miss-tackler in 2014 – is attempting to stand tall, something which he demonstrated against Newcastle last weekend.
Several times throughout proceedings at Hunter Stadium Brooks became an obvious target for Newcastle enforcer Beau Scott to run at, yet the diminutive 20-year-old stood his ground and even retaliated at times by pushing the Blues back-rower while he was playing the ball, not to be intimidated.
Statistics prove he is improving in defence too. After missing 101 tackles in his first year of NRL football last season (11 more than the next worst in Eels playmaker Chris Sandow) at an average of 4.8 per game, Brooks has tightened his defence considerably by cutting 1.7 missed tackles from his game-to-game numbers in 2015.
With Brooks's attitude in defence lifting, the responsibility of his team's fortunes this weekend against the Cowboys has become even more important with Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods missing due to State of Origin honours.
"I never take a backward step when I play and that's something I'm not going to stop doing. In the heat of the battle it's nothing too serious but it's good to stand up for yourself," Brooks told NRL.com.
"We have copped a couple of big losses having Woodsy and Farah out so the other boys have to step up. There's a lot of experience gone without them and we're taking on a Cowboys team that have won seven-in-a-row.
"I've been happy with my defence so far this season. I definitely have a lot of improvement to come because it's a matter of consistently making good tackles and defending well every week.
"Plenty of responsibility falls on Mitchell [five-eighth Moses] and my shoulders with the Origin boys gone now, so it's important we take charge of the team."
While halves partner Moses has also struggled in defence, currently topping the most missed tackles in the league after 10 rounds, Brooks has been buoyed by the five-eighth's performances of late.
Moses missed seven tackles against Newcastle, but coach Jason Taylor said his halves performed well considering they were playing off the "back foot".
It's a sentiment Brooks echoed.
"I think our attack is coming along nicely and we still have a bit of improvement in us as well," Brooks said.
"Mitch has been frustrated by not getting as much ball as me but I think on the weekend he showed what he can do. He made a few breaks and he's an ad-lib kind of player.
"Once he gets his hands on a loose ball it allows him to take on the bigger blokes where he is dangerous. I think once Mitch starts being fed more ball he'll be able to show what he can do but in saying that he's still been doing his job for the team."