Luke Brooks v Benji Marshall
In a whirlwind 18 months that has included an NRL debut, Dally M Rookie of the Year Award and an NRL All Stars appearance, Luke Brooks will look to record another accomplishment this Monday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium – a win against his childhood hero and former teammate Benji Marshall.
Marshall returns to the ground where he made his NRL debut in 2003 for the first time in rival colours. Coming up against plenty of his close friends in this match, the Wests Tigers Life Member will be determined to lead the Dragons to their first win of the year after a disappointing start for his side against Melbourne.
Marshall lined up alongside Brooks during his NRL debut in 2013, which was ironically against St. George Illawarra, a game where the rookie half turned in a dominant man-of-the-match display. Monday’s game will be the second time the pair have met on an NRL stage, with Brooks out to make amends for a 28-12 defeat in Round 20 last year. Look out for fellow halves Mitchell Moses and Gareth Widdop to also have a high involvement on Monday night also.
Career Head-to-Head clashes: Played 1 – Brooks 0, Marshall 1
NRL Fantasy Prices: Brooks $213,000 (-$8,000; Last Week: 15), Marshall $313,000 (+$6,000; Last Week: 44)
Brooks: “Benji had a good impact on my career, my first year in the NRL squad he was there and helped me a lot. It will be a bit weird playing against him again but it’s just another game.”
Kevin Naiqama v Eto Nabuli
Kevin Naiqama continued his impressive trial match form last week against the Gold Coast Titans, making 105 metres and coming up with some impressive defensive reads in his official Wests Tigers debut.
Eto Nabuli made his NRL debut last week against Melbourne, scoring his side’s lone-try in a 12-4 loss at WIN Stadium. Born in Fiji, the powerful winger was a standout performer during a previous stint in the lower grades at Penrith, including a 30-try season tally for Windsor in the 2013 NSW Cup.
Both Naiqama and Nabuli have plenty in common; both are from a Fijian background and played for the Penrith Panthers last year – winning a premiership together in NSW Cup. The history between the pair alone makes for an exciting match-up, combine that with the skill and speed the two have on offer and it makes for a classic showdown at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Career Head-to-Head clashes: Yet to play at NRL level.
NRL Fantasy Prices: Naiqama $292,000 (-$16,000; Last Week: 14), Nabuli $143,000 (+$15,000; Last Week: 34)
Naiqama: “It was a memorable game for me last week to make my Wests Tigers debut, a real nail-biter. A good win, a real team-effort and it was good that we stuck to our game plan. I’m really excited to get out there on Monday night for our first home game of the year; hopefully we can get a lot of support which will help get us through again.”
Pat Richards v Jason Nightingale
Earning the nickname ‘Iceman’ at training this week, winger Pat Richards started the 2015 season with a memorable performance against the Gold Coast Titans - scoring two tries, three goals and a last-minute field-goal to the win the game.
Despite being named on the wing, it’s not yet known whether Jason Nightingale will line-up in that position, with an injury to Josh Dugan meaning that the New Zealand International may shift to fullback in his place. Nightingale topped the Dragons metre-count last week against the Storm with a massive 186 metres.
Despite the ‘veteran’ status of both Richards and Nightingale, the pair have clashed just twice in their NRL careers. Richards departed in 2006 for an eight-year stint in Super League with Wigan, while Nightingale didn’t make his debut until 2007, resulting in the two coming up against one another for the first time last year.
Career Head-to-Head clashes: Played 2 - Richards 0, Nightingale 2
NRL Fantasy Prices: Richards $252,000 (+$24,000; Last Week: 58), Nightingale $377,000 (+$3,000; Last Week: 47)
Luke Brooks on Richards: “He has been cashing in on (the field goal) a bit; he has been walking around training calling himself the Iceman (laughs). Patty is a freak though, whenever we are in that (field goal) position we will look to give it to him.”