'It's his team': Brooks sprays put Tigers veterans in their place

Robbie Farah takes a few steps down the short side and thinks better of it.

Gives his halfback the ball as was meant, but cops it all the same.

Expletives, lisp and all.

So goes the award-winning evolution of Luke Brooks.

The nuggety No.7 lumped with comparisons to Andrew Johns before his first-grade debut, the same 16-year-old whose future swayed Farah to stay at the Tigers when he was renegotiating a 2011 contract.

Through five full seasons of first grade, five coaches, 'the Big Four' and a metric tonne of criticism – Peter Sterling, Phil Gould and the Eighth Immortal among those taking aim at times over the years.

Through 26 Dally M points and a five-year Wests Tigers extension, to a soggy, sodden Leichhardt Oval two weeks ago.

"One of our key things here is honest conversations about what's not good enough," Benji Marshall begins.

"[Against Manly] the other day Robbie was down a short side. He picked the ball up took a couple of steps and gave it to Brooksy at the line late.

"Brooksy had something on where he wanted the ball off the ground and he just turned around and said 'give me the effing ball off the ground next time'.

"Something simple like that, and Robbie's sweet, no worries."

Sitting atop the NRL ladder for the first time ever in 20 years as a joint-venture, it's been Farah and not Brooks cleaning up the Dally M votes across the opening two weeks of 2019.

But it's the 24-year-old that has been put front and centre of most every Tigers video session by Michael Maguire – coach number five for Brooks in the past six years.

"He's grown up and matured and I think he feels now that its his team and he bosses us around like it's his team," Farah tells NRL.com.

"That's what we need from him as our halfback.

"In our video meetings he's getting up and addressing the team, telling us what he wants. Even on the field if I'm not giving him what he wants or one of the boys is not giving him what he wants, he lets you know.

"He's good for a spray but he's got a bit of a lisp actually so his sprays don't really sound like sprays. It sounds like a little kid having a cry out there. But the message does get across."

The message at times has been muddled when it comes to Brooks. As the unwanted and ill-fated 'Big Four' tag was touted ad nauseum two years ago, Brooks was always the smallest in discussion of he, James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses, and where their futures lay.

Brooks was the only one to remain at Concord.

The Wests Tigers celebrate a try.
The Wests Tigers celebrate a try. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

There were more rumblings when Ivan Cleary conceded halfway through Brooks' true breakout season at the Tigers that he'd like to coach his son Nathan there too, Cleary snr eventually shifting back to Penrith to make it so.

Farah and Marshall were on deck for Brooks' 2013 debut, and are back again in 2019, the Tigers' past being shifted and shunted and sprayed around the paddock by the club's future.

"It's his confidence and his talk. You see it day to day," Farah says.

"It's the biggest difference in Luke from those early days and I think it showed last year, he went within a whisker of winning the Dally M.

"He's had plenty to carry over the years, there has been expectation and those comparisons to Andrew Johns and what not.

"But when you're a young kid coming in with guys like me, Benji and the older guys, you need to learn how to boss us around.

"He probably did find that difficult to do but I think whether he likes doing it or not, that's his job, and he knows it's his job."