Manly fans are daring to dream after high profile signing Luke Brooks starred in the club's thumping pre-season trial win against South Sydney on Sunday. Brooks - often maligned across the course of his NRL career with the Wests - marked his first proper hit out for his new club with an impressive showing as the Sea Eagles thrashed a young and inexperienced Rabbitohs side 68-6 in Gosford.
Brooks set up three tries in the first 40 minutes before being given an early mark his Manly winning 24-6 at halftime against a Bunnies side made up of mostly reserve grade players. The Sea Eagles and their fans will certainly have to temper their excitement after the huge win, with the South Sydney side they'll face in next month's NRL season opener in Las Vegas set to look nothing like the one they thrashed on Sunday.
Nevertheless, it was a promising start to life at Manly for Brooks, who will have dreams of playing finals footy with the Sea Eagles in 2024, having never done so in 11 seasons at the Tigers. The crafty playmaker will be relishing the chance to combine with Maroons halfback and Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans - one of numerous big-name stars rested from the clash.
The 29-year-old Brooks showed he's already got a good understanding with his new teammates and combined well with the likes of man-of-the-match Ben Trbojevic, who crossed for a first half hat-trick. Young gun Jamie Humphreys also impressed with two tries and could be pushing for a bench utility spot at Manly in 2024, but it was the performance of his new halves star that left Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold particularly happy.
“Brooksy was good,” Seibold said after the game. “We just wanted him to put a Manly jersey on. He’s had a good pre-season and we feel like the No.6 jersey for him will take some pressure off him with having Chez (Daly Cherry-Evans) and Tom (Trbojevic) in key positions around him.
“We want him to use his natural ability which is to take short sides, take the line on and use his kicking game. We saw pieces of that today which was pleasing.”
A few notes from Gosford:
- The Sea Eagles will be very fun to watch this year
- Luke Brooks will be one of the buys of the year
- Ben Trbojevic has improved big time
- Ben Condon could be very handy off the bench
— Martin Gabor (@MartinJGabor) February 11, 2024
— mathew willoughby (@Ausbooky) February 11, 2024
• Ben Trbojevic: 3 tries, 40 mins
1. Luke Brooks
2. Jamie Humphreys
3. Ray Vaega
4. Jacob Sykes
— Strictly Footy (@SFootyPod) February 11, 2024
Luke Brooks short ball to Burbo has been deadly. With his running ability and a deadly short ball to the hole runner, hes looking a great pickup for Manly.
And if that's not on he can cut Burbo out to Koula whos likely to start on that edge come round 1. Unfair.
— Strictly Footy (@SFootyPod) February 11, 2024
luke brooks try assist
jamie humphreys playing pic.twitter.com/sFuxGyz7x0
— mitch (@mitchmcrae_) February 11, 2024
Ben Trbojevic stamps claim for Manly starting spot
The form of the youngest Trbojevic brother Ben is sure to give Seibold headaches, with the 22-year-old stamping his claims for a starting spot in Manly's back row against the Rabbitohs. Trbojevic ran hard and hit the gaps well and his hat-trick of tries showed will no doubt ramp up the pressure on Josh Schuster, who has been expected to win the starting edge forward role over Trbojevic.
Schuster contracted chickenpox before Christmas and has also been battling a broken finger and calf injury that's limited his off-season training. Schuster played no part in Sunday's big win but is expected to feature in Manly first pre-season Cup game against the Roosters on Saturday.
The Rabbitohs also play on Saturday in the Charity Shield against traditional rivals, the Dragons, with Jason Demetriou's side set to look much different to the one thrashed by Manly on Sunday. The Rabbitohs coach is also dealing with his own injury concerns though, with news star five-eighth Cody Walker is the latest to be sidelined after Campbell Graham was ruled out for at least six months last week.
Cody Walker joins Campbell Graham on Souths sidelines
It emerged over the weekend that Walker would miss the All Star's game on Friday night after suffering a calf strain in the lead-up to the clash. Walker had been tipped to captain the Indigenous team but coach Ronnie Griffith told the Sydney Morning Herald that he'd been ruled out.
“I spoke to him before I boarded a flight from Brisbane; he told me he did his calf and was out,” Griffiths told the publication. “It’s a massive blow for us and a massive blow for Cody because he’s a player who makes himself available every year. He loves the game and that passion and leadership exudes out of him when he plays.”
The news is a further blow to South Sydney, who are also expected to see gun centre Graham ruled out for Six months with a sternum injury. The Rabbitohs will also be without big-money recruit Jack Wighton for the season-opening match against Manly in Las Vegas, as the 30-year-old serves a suspension from his final game for the Raiders last year.
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