The Cumberland Throw

The Watchlist – Dylan Brown

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If you want to read outdated previews of players who have since played first grade for the Eels, check out these editions on Marata Nuikore, Jaeman Salmon and Ray Stone.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.


Left to right – Dylan Brown, Oregon Kaufusi, Kyle Schneider, Ethan Parry, Jesse Cronin and Eels recruitment guru Anthony Field.

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:

and 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,


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76 thoughts on “The Watchlist – Dylan Brown

  1. parrathruandthru

    Nice work Mitch although you seemed to have missed the obligatory “how many halfbacks since Peter Sterling” article opportunity that comes with anybody who gets anywhere near a halves spot at Parramatta

    1. mitch Post author

      I’m pretty keen to read parrathruandthru’s debut article, whenever we convince him to write one. Always great stuff, thanks mate.

      1. parrathruandthru

        I don’t have many interesting thing to say these days Mitch. Consider me the Peter Sterling of the TCT commentary. There to put the cherry on the top. You know what happens to Parra when Sterlo writes a feature on them …….DOOM

  2. parrathruandthru

    I’m concerned if he taps those boots together 3 times he will end up in Kansas. I guess that’s still better than the warriors

  3. Milo

    Good read Mitch. V important to temper our expectations and just hope he has a solid start to the year. Well said.
    Maybe it’s tine for bohemian rhapsody? Some good tunes in that piece….

    1. sixties

      I have massive wraps on him, but let’s afford him the opportunity to adjust to NRL when that happens – without too much expectation.
      Brown will have a long NRL career.

  4. The rev aka Snedden

    Nice write up Mitch. I like our future spine.
    I’ll tell you who really gets me excited ? Mahoney n not the 1 from police academy. I’m talking about Young reed Mahoney the games he played last year were very good he even tighten up the ruck area. Mitch if Moses is punted in 2020 I feel that our spine will be as is.

    1# Gutherson
    6# salmon
    7# brown
    9# Mahoney
    13# brown

    I’m liking what we are doing with our jrs coming through.
    It’s better late than never right.


        1. Hamsammich

          He’s good enough to fill in there as we saw last season. He may not have produced outstanding play but have to remember he missed a lot of the pre-season due to his neck surgery and the fact he was only 19 with minimal 20’s and ISP experience. I thought he did quite well.

          But then again every team is in trouble if one of their starting halves is out.

    1. The rev aka Snedden

      So with every man n his 🐕 telling me that salmon is a centre I take it that Moses will go 5\8 n brown 7 ?

  5. DDay

    Great research Mitch, the clips tell a good story. Seems like he’s doing the hard yards defencelessly and fitness wise. Do you have a feel for whether he would be a better 6 or 7?

    1. mitch Post author

      At this stage I think the number on his back is irrelevant, but I suspect he’ll be deferring to Moses for 2019 in any case. In that regard he’ll likely start as more of a “6”, if that makes sense.

      Good to hear from you again, D. Hope you and the family are well mate.

  6. parrathruandthru

    He’s tough too. Played 75 mins of his last Wenty game with a smashed finger. Although you wouldn’t have known it as he didn’t shirk his responsibilities in either attack or defence.

  7. Glenn

    Great article Mitch and hope to see more on our up and coming stars. Of the highlight clips I’ve seen what I like most about him is his anticipation and his vision. Great attributes to have and often the difference between champion players and good players.

  8. Graz

    No longer seeing these up and comers before the NRL games means we rely on video clips and reports such as these brilliantly done on TCT. Thanks Mitch.

    1. sixties

      If only three grades were played on match days, we’d all see the young players on their pathway. Now you have to commit to a second day of footy per weekend.

      1. mitch Post author

        To play devil’s advocate, when they did combine two or three games this year, people still didn’t show for the early game/s. It’s a shame.

          1. sixties

            I agree completely. The NRL has created a culture of minimal interest in lower grades via its scheduling.
            And again, you won’t be able to watch lower grade finals as the curtain raiser to NRL finals as the NRLW will be staged – not disrespecting them, but the future NRL players miss out on a bigger stage again.

          2. Bob jay

            Nrl , the job where the people with the least knowledge of the sport get to make the decisions , bit like our board , no footy awareness.

  9. Offside

    I’ve seen a bit of dylan over the years hes a good player with alot of potential. I have a feeling he will be better suited as a 6 or even a 1 he posses the ability to ice opportunities with a deft kick or a nice money ball, in terms of being the on field general i think we will weight and see.
    He is a player with enormous wraps and rightfully so lets hope he can not only step up but grow and fulfill his potential.

    1. sixties

      Plenty of time to see how he develops. A few of the NRLs recent champion halves were in their twenties when they consolidated a halves spot. I don’t expect an 18 year old to be an on field general. Moses has the NRL games and salary to hold that expectation for now.

      1. Offside

        100% i have alot of hope for him.
        Although im consistently reminded that i said once that kris and matt Keating were the future of this club so ill hold back on my expectations for now.
        I just want him to be a good 1st grader who improves to great at our club.

      2. BDon

        If our forwards show more dominance, Moses will go well but it will be an important factor for Brown too. Settling into NRL behind a struggling pack aint much fun. Composure and kicking game from halves, huge upside for us In 2019…no pressure!

  10. Hamsammich

    Great write-up Miatch, and hopefully you have the Midas touch making it 4 from 4 (6 from 6 if you plan to do only 2 more). Brown has been fantastic in the training I’ve been able to attend and of course backs it up on the field. I’ve watched Dyl since he was 15 playing in the Harold Matts and he’s always been a stand-out but I believe he played his best football alongside fellow NZ half Joe Taipari.

    As an aside about the gif you posted for his try against manly. I think the most encouraging thing from that play is not Dyl’s try but the fact that we had 3 players backing up. Michael Cheer on his outside, Ethan Parry and Reed Mahoney on his inside.

    1. sixties

      Joe will come back in 2019, and hopefully down the track he’ll get the opportunity to showcase what he can do. They were quite the halves pairing in Ball, and were looking good until Taipari’s injury last year.

        1. sixties

          Joe is still eligible for Flegg in 2019 and I believe he’s currently 18 – I’ll check this.
          He’ll be out of action until maybe round 10.
          Joseph combines well with Dylan and he’s got one of the best steps you’ll ever see.
          He’s a talent. Getting back on the field is his first challenge.

          1. Hamsammich

            The biggest hurdle for Taipari is coming back from a 14 month injury. If he handles that well I believe he’s got what it takes to be a back-up half and eventually play first grade.

            I’m pretty sure he’s 20 next year. Depending how he returns from injury, he’s the exact sort of player that we should be retaining for our reserve grade team next year. There’s a handful of 20 year olds that fit into that category.

          2. sixties

            I know Wenty has retained a couple of our Flegg boys – as you say Ham, that’s the direction we should go.
            Yeah, I wasn’t sure if he was turning 19 or 20 next year. Given your encyclopaedic knowledge, I’ll defer to you re age.

      1. Hamsammich

        He was playing better than Brown before he got injured last season. Would’ve gone on to play ISP for mine.

    1. sixties

      When the time comes that he’s selected, there is no way that he can avoid Eels fans putting expectation on him. It’s important to see how he deals with it. I think he has a good temperament.

    2. mitch Post author

      Me too mate. Could be a rough year for us regarding results, but there’s still plenty of interest going forward with some of the young brigade coming through.

  11. Trouser Eel

    My Eels Membership cap has “welcome home” embroidered on the rear Velcro tab. Wouldn’t it be cool if the players all wore red boots on the first game, with the theme “there’s no place like home”
    Btw great article Mitch. Looking forward to your next Nostridamus pick.

  12. Big Pete

    A great player to look forward to in the near future in the NRL Blue and Gold. Good article Mitch and well researched

  13. Lito

    Thank you, Great article! When will the team resume their pre-season? Wanted to attend one of them. Thanks.

  14. Anonymous

    I love how we always lump the Sterling tag on every new young half we have coming through, Tim Smith, Chris Sandow…even John Simon!! This bloke & Tapari need & deserve a chance to grow before the fans are giving it to ’em. Personally, I would love to see Tep have a few games this year, while Brown is cementing his own spot

    1. Hamsammich

      Assuming you mean Taipari, he’s coming back from a long term leg injury and won’t be back until approx round 10. I believe he’ll spend a few weeks in Flegg to get back into the groove of things and then move into ISP. Also he isn’t part of the top 30 nor looking likely that he’ll be a part of the 6 development players so will not be able to participate in first grade next season

    2. sixties

      Anon, it will be impossible to stop the media or supporters putting labels on halves when the Eels have only had one premiership winning halfback.
      I’ve said it before, it comes down to how Brown handles all of that when his time in the NRL comes. I think he’ll just be himself.

  15. Shelley

    Fantastic read. As a fan base we need to give him, in fact all the younger team members, the time to come into first grade when he is ready and accept that there will be good and bad. However I have always been taught that in league three things can not really be coached- speed, instinct and most importantly competitive drive. He seems to have all three. Wanting to defend and not finding places to hide is a rare commodity for a halve in first grade. The best halves make tackles and seem to take pride in it- Cronk, Thurston, Johns come most to mind. I look forward to watching him progress.

    1. sixties

      Great comment re speed, instinct and competitive drive.
      Gutherson is also blessed with those qualities – maybe not blistering speed but he can maintain top speed for an extraordinary duration (see his try vs Dragons in 2017). His competitive drive, which is on show at every training session, provides a tremendous model for the younger players.

    2. mitch Post author

      Agree Shelley, it’s an interesting time to be an expectant fan of the Eels, particularly off the back of recent results. Thanks for reading mate.

  16. Bob jay

    In another glowing tribute to the leading fans website tct the 1ee has redesigned itself in a very lookalike manner , different circus but with same clowns .

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