Remodelled Brown dominates through pain
If you want an example of the toughness on show in Parramatta's gutsy 32-24 win over the Warriors on Friday night, look no further than rugged lock Nathan Brown who played through a rib injury – and a mounting injury toll elsewhere in the team – to punch out a match-defining 80 minutes.
Speaking after the game, Brown spoke of playing through a rib injury, his desire to repay the faith of coach Brad Arthur and his determination to be seen as more than the aggro hitter who represented South Sydney last year.
"It's just a bit of rib cartilage but last week watching the boys was pretty painful so I wanted to get out there and to the boys' credit we stuck in there and it was a tough win," he said of his rib.
The fact it hurt more to watch his teammates play without him than to get smacked in a damaged rib speaks volumes.
"These injuries are decided on how much you can handle the pain. We just needled it and just tried not to think about it," he added.
The whole forward pack took it upon themselves to lift with skipper Tim Mannah and Siosaia Vave joining the unavailable list during the week.
"Timmy's the captain so him not playing everyone in the forward pack had to put their hands up and I thought we did," he said.
"[It was the] gutsiest win so far this year. It's really pleasing, everyone just plays for each other."
Brown is enjoying a career year; the Wests Tigers junior was brought over from previous club Souths as a hard-running middle forward with an at-times over-aggressive style.
That aggression tended to land him on the wrong side of the match review committee but in 2017 under Brad Arthur, Brown has flourished, staying away from judiciary problems and lighting up the stats sheet with mountains of runs and tackles and no shortage of creative passing to go with it.
Since taking on a big-minute starting role from Round 7 Brown has averaged 158 metres and 34 tackles per game (excluding an injury-hit Round 11). He has slotted into dummy-half when needed at times this year and passed like a five-eighth – notably in the win over the Warriors.
Any halfback would have been pleased with Brown's swift cut-out pass to set up the opening try of the game to Kirisome Auva'a and his nice second-half offload helped Tepai Moeroa score.
"'BA' has given me the opportunity just to play footy and show your skills and lucky enough it came off," Brown said.
"I'm just loving my footy, really enjoying it, loving the coaching staff, BA's given me a great opportunity so I don't want to let him down or let the boys down. I'm just happy and enjoying my footy."
Without delving into his mounting judiciary toll of years gone by (Brown was also a participant in a wild under-20s brawl in his Wests Tigers days), Brown admitted he'd rather be known for his football than just aggression.
"You've got to learn from what you've done, you don't want to be labelled one of those bad names in the game, I want to play the game tough and hard," he said.
"It didn't really bother me [what people thought], I just stuck to playing footy."
Arthur had some lofty praise for the hard-working No.13 after the win over the Warriors.
"He shouldn't have played but we needed something from him," Arthur said.
"To play 80 minutes, he's not the biggest forward going around but they're quite a big pack but he kept carting it into them and taking his punishment."