Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter says his young side’s 21-18 win over Parramatta without inspirational skipper Robbie Farah on Monday was a huge step forward in their development.
A halfback masterclass from 19-year-old Luke Brooks, who kicked the go-ahead field goal three minutes from fulltime – having earlier scored a runaway try – was the difference between the sides in an enthralling encounter in front of a crowd of more than 50,00 at ANZ Stadium.
Both sides made their fair share of errors but in a topsy-turvy affair, it did little to detract from a thoroughly enjoyable game that was only sealed in the Tigers’ favour with Pat Richards’ booming penalty goal from halfway with under two minutes remaining.
However, it was Brooks who stole the show and Potter was delighted with how the youngster, already tipped as a future NSW Origin representative, coped with the occasion.
“I think he’s still developing, but he kicked a match-winning field goal and his kicking got better once he got into a routine,” Potter said.
“He takes it in his stride, if he was playing park footy he would be the same. It really doesn’t faze him. He’s good to coach and he’s good to watch.
“Winning without Robbie, (James) Tedesco and Liam Fulton was above and beyond for these players.
“I think the confidence the young guys will get from this result is going to stand us in good stead for when things get tight and tough later in the season.”
Stand-in Tigers captain Braith Anasta echoed Potter’s sentiments about Brooks.
“He doesn’t seem to be put under pressure too much and he handles every situation with ease,” Anasta said.
“He stays really relaxed and I asked him leading up to the field goal if he wanted to take it and he said ‘give it to me’ and I teed him up.
“He put it over the middle like it was just routine.
“We’ve come a long way in 12 months. We didn’t play our best but we won in adversity as they were all over us.”
The vastly experienced Anasta said playing alongside Brooks and young guns like fullback Kurtis Rowe and winger David Nofoaluma had reinvigorated his career.
“It’s been good for me, I am coming to the end and it has given me a new lease of life and motivates me every day looking at the young blokes and how good they are,” he said.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said his side were let down by a lack of composure but refused to point the finger of blame at Chris Sandow, who missed three very kickable conversions.
“At times we were looking for a quick fix and a quick way of winning the game,” said Arthur.
“We needed to be better to win the game. They scored two tries from our errors and we need to learn how to close the game out.
“It would have been nice to kick the goal, but we had enough opportunities to win the game.”