Wests Tigers' teenage hero Luke Brooks has shrugged off suggestions he took a dive in a crucial incident late in the Easter Monday thriller against Parramatta, with the obstruction issue again casting a shadow over the outcome to an NRL game.
On a day in which Benji Marshall’s impending return to rugby league was revealed, the next generation Wests Tigers general continued to show that the resurgent club has well and truly moved on from their their former playmaking master.
The burgeoning reputation of 19-year-old Brooks was only enhanced when he clinched victory over the Eels for Mick Potter’s side with a late field goal before a bumper crowd of 50,668 at ANZ Stadium. Fringe NSW wing candidate Pat Richards applied the finishing touches with a penalty goal from the halfway line as the seconds ticked down.
Parramatta were left to rue an opportunity blown. They gift-wrapped two runaway tries to the Tigers – scored by Brooks and Richards – and halfback Chris Sandow landed only one from four conversion attempts, missing a chance at 18-18 in the dying stages to edge the Eels back in front.
They were also left unhappy at controversially being denied in the 72nd minute when Will Hopoate crossed only for the video officials to disallow the try due to an obstruction. Brooks, again, was involved, knocked over by Eels forward David Gower in the lead-up. It was enough for on-field referee Matt Cecchin’s decision to be overturned by the men upstairs. Winger Semi Radradra scored his 10th try of the season soon after, but Parramatta coach Brad Arthur was not impressed.
‘‘I don’t know what an obstruction is any more and I just think as coaches we’ll start to encourage our players to take a dive. Dave Gower clearly got back on [Brooks’] inside shoulder. That’s the rule. He went through the line sideways,’’ Arthur said.
Eels captain Jarryd Hayne had put his side ahead with a first-half double and after a weekend marred by obstruction calls was also perplexed. ‘‘I think the players, the fans and the coaches just want consistency,’’ Hayne said. ‘‘Every week it seems like it’s changing. As soon as it gets to be a media storm they get a bit of fear behind them, the video refs. It’s pretty clear that Gowie didn’t take him out. I think for us if that’s going to be the rules then stay with it. Don’t come back next week ... media storm, they start getting scared again. If that’s the way it is, then keep it. It’s disappointing.’’
Brooks denied any suggestion he had dived. ‘‘I don’t think so,’’ Brooks said. ‘‘He ran into me. I couldn’t do anything else.’’
The episode did not deserve to take the gloss off his fine showing at the death, stepping up to pot a match-winning one-pointer in only his eighth NRL match to give the Tigers five wins from seven matches. Brooks said he was calm as the field goal attempt approached, two minutes from full-time. ‘‘We’ve done that at training, practised it, so I didn’t feel too much pressure,’’ he said.
Potter was impressed with the desperation of his team in the absence of captain Robbie Farah, and said Brooks was not fazed by the big crowd. ‘‘I think he takes it in his stride. If he was playing park footy he’d do the same thing as if it was in front of 50,000,’’ the coach said. ‘‘I don’t think it fazes him, he’s just so casual. He’s good to coach and he’s good to watch.’’
The Tigers’ stand-in captain Braith Anasta added of his halves partner: ‘‘He’s very composed no matter what the situation,’’ Anasta said. ‘‘I said to him before that last play when he got the field goal, ‘Do you want to take it?’ And he goes ‘Yeah give it to me’. He just put it straight over the middle. It was just like it was routine.’’