Brooks has a party for his 200th in 66-18 Tigers win
Scott Bailey |
Luke Brooks has gone from Wests Tigers’ punching bag to fan favourite in his 200th NRL game, leading the club to a record-breaking 66-18 win over North Queensland.
In the greatest attacking night in the history of Balmain, Western Suburbs or the joint-venture, Brooks starred with one of the most dominant performances of his career.
It prompted Tigers fans to chant his name before fulltime and again after the siren, after he kicked brilliantly, rediscovered his running game and had a hand in three tries.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Brooks was the Tigers’ favourite son and not the man who had copped the brunt of fans’ frustrations for the past month.
“People that are here can do that,” coach Tim Sheens said.
“People on twitter who give him grief can take their twitter and shove it.”
On a superb night for the Tigers, Apisai Koroisau pushed his NSW State of Origin case, having a hand in two tries in the last game before Brad Fittler makes a call between he and Damien Cook for No.9.
Starford To’a, David Nofoaluma and Junior Tupou all bagged doubles, while Jahream Bula had the best game of his career.
And it was Brooks who engineered it all, helping the Tigers blow the Cowboys off the park in a 24-6 first half and strangling them of any ball.
A day after coach Tim Sheens revealed the club would offer him a contract beyond this year, Brooks played with an extra spring in his step.
He regularly poked his nose through the line, getting back to his running best as he opted to take the line on 21 times and make 213 metres.
The No.7 set the tone for the night when he broke 50 metres down field early in the first half and put Tupou over shortly after.
Another try came when Kyle Feldt fumbled an early kick from close to halfway, and the halfback set up a third in the second half with a ball for To’a after a late Bula offload.
“There was a whole heap of that emotion, his family and so on. But he’s been playing well for the last month,” Sheens said.
“Okay, he wasn’t scoring seven tries a game. Not too many can do that. Right?
“But people here seem to think that’s what it’s got to be. Seven tries a game or he can’t play.
“I know he’s doing a lot of money. That’s not his fault. A back-ended contract in his last year.
“But I’ve stood up for the kid since I signed him as a 16-year-old, never coached him until this year.
“Between the work Benji and the staff have put into him, and he’s playing footy with a smile on his face. He’s enjoying it. And that’s the difference. Being happy in a place.”
In comparison, the Cowboys’ season is on a tightrope.
After two straight wins coming into Saturday night, they walked away with the equal-worst defensive effort in the club’s history and are still two wins out of the top eight.
But on a horror night, even Cowboys coach Todd Payten could get some joy for the halfback he coached in under-20s.
“I’ve known Brooksy since he was a kid and I’m really happy to hear the crowd chant his name,” Payten said.
“He has been copping it from pillar to post for a long time now. The kid is a great kid.”AAP