Back for another year, The Watchlist takes a look at some of the up and comers in our playing ranks – players who are knocking on the door, but are yet to crack first grade at the Eels.
If you want to read outdated previews of players who have since played first grade for the Eels, check out these editions on Marata Nuikore, Jaeman Salmon and Ray Stone. As a side note, I’m currently batting three from three, and I’m telling you now, today’s focal point Dylan Brown is the surest of things to make it four debuts on the trot.
Other than avid readers of The Cumberland Throw (hi Mum), I dare say most Eels fans first heard of New Zealand born Dylan Brown a few weeks ago when the Warriors were doing their Kiwi-best to poach him from under our noses.
It was this tweet from The Australian’s Brent Read on the 28th November that sent Eels fans both into farcical meltdown, and simultaneously to internet search engines to figure out exactly how hysterical their forthcoming rants should be.
Said search engine results may have led some to discover that the 183cm tall, 85kg, red boot wearing halfback had a whale of a 2017. Not only did the young man that has dubbed himself ‘Dylbags’ play in the 7 for the champion SG Ball Eels side (with Jaeman Salmon in the opposition 6 jersey, mind you), he also managed to earn himself an Australian Schoolboys jersey before crashing back to earth in the last minute loss to Manly in the NYC Grand Final.
Your boy’s meteoric rise continued in 2018 as Dyl not only made his debut for the
mighty Wentworthville Magpies in Round 19 at the ripe age of 18 years and 1 month old, but has also since been added to Parra’s full time training squad and is the shortest of odds to be named in the NRL Eels Top 30 for 2019.
And Brown is not just a pretty face with a nice CV. Trust me when I say that the ruby slippered phenom has the courage, heart and brain to make it in the NRL, and is capable of some Rugby League wizardry of his own. Let’s have a more in-depth look behind the curtain.
Now I know this isn’t the sexiest of skills to start with, but the first thing you should know about Dylan Brown’s game is that he is no cowardly lion; the young man is rock solid in defence. In his 5 NSW Cup games this year, the young buck was asked to make a 118 tackles (or 23.6 per game). For the sake of comparison, the combined total of the opposing halfbacks in those 5 games was 74 tackles (average 14.8). It’s worth remembering that this is an 18 year old kid, making 23-24 tackles a game against men who are angry, bitter and twisted that they are plying their trade in the thankless depths of NSW Cup football. Yet, despite that dramatic analogy and ridiculous defensive workload, Dylan only missed 8 tackles across the 5 games (or 1.6 a game); and for those playing along at home, the opposing 5 halfbacks in said games missed a combined total of 19 tackles (or 3.8 a game). Like I said, it’s not all that sexy, but defence of that calibre is a pretty handy foundation to have in one of your halves, particularly one who is only just old enough to vote.
Not just courage, but the kid’s got brains, too. Another crucial skill Brown possesses is a little something those in the business call composure. Talk to his coaches, his teammates, scouts and presumably most of the Warriors organisation and they will tell you that Dylan Brown simply does not crack under pressure. His game is even-tempered, he never seems overawed. And being the possible heir to the Eels number 7 jersey, he’d want to be composed under pressure. Now please don’t hear me saying his team never loses in crunch time, nor that everything he ever tries comes off; but there are certain NRL players who the game seems to slow down for in those clutch situations, who just seem to make logical decisions under pressure, and keep a cool head. Dylan is just that kind of player. Admittedly, there’s no tangible data or statistical analysis available to demonstrate this point, and the Warriors aren’t returning my calls, so at this stage you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Thirdly, he’s got heart. Many Eels fans would already know that Dylan Brown is pretty fit. More to the point, he’s insanely fit. If you have been reading Sixties’ Training Reports you would know that Dylan Brown would be leading the conditioning work if it weren’t for a certain captain Clint Gutherson. Finishing only behind the King in both the December beep test and 1.2km runs, Dylan evidently has a motor for days.
Finally, Dylan also has a good foundation of rugby league skills essential for any modern day halfback. From all reports, his passing, short kicking and pass selection are all first class; although like most/all rookie halves the consistency of his kicking game (particularly long kicks) needs a bit of work. Similarly, Dylan will need to better find his voice and capacity to direct a team around the park, but this again should be expected for any 18 year old not yelling at his parents.
But I want to show you something that sets Dylan Brown apart. Let’s go to the monitor.
So, sure any halfback should be able to do this:
And drawing on that aforementioned fitness, it’s no surprise Dylan can frequently be found in support (look for the
red boots ruby slippers):
But what’s really great about Dylan is his running game. He doesn’t just occasionally take the line on, it’s straight up his preferred option. I mean he pretty regularly does things like this:
He barely even pretends to pass here:
Yes, there’s still a few questions to be answered, and no developing player should ever be considered a sure thing. A plethora of our game’s greatest stars didn’t consolidate their first grade positions until they were in their 20s, so as with all rugby league prospects, patience is most certainly advised. With that all said, however, at this stage there’s a lot to like about Dylan Brown.
Admittedly this next quote by theologian CS Lewis was originally about reading the Bible, but I’m still going to go ahead and apply it to rugby league; I mean, it’s a seriously great quote:
“The tuning up of an orchestra can be itself delightful, but only to those who can, in some measure, anticipate the coming symphony.”
Right now, 18 year old Dylan Brown is warming up, fine tuning his rugby league abilities. And as with all rookies, Eels fans should temper their expectations, as it is likely Brown’s 2019 will be more rugby league recital than NRL concerto.
Nonetheless, those same Eels fans should very much anticipate a rhapsody, that coming symphony, because all signs indicate that this kid is probably going to be something special.
Here at The Throw, we’ll be watching.
Go you Eels,