Eel be right: Apprentice the master

Published date24 June 2022
Publication titleBay of Plenty Times
Brown, who will make his Kiwis debut tomorrow against Mate Ma’a Tonga (5.20pm), has already been compared to Benji Marshall and is seen as the playmaker New Zealand can build around for the next decade

It’s staggering stuff, but not without foundation as Brown is one of the most exciting local prospects in years.

In his fourth season at Parramatta, the five-eighth has gone to a new level in 2022.

From 14 games he has recorded seven tries, eight try assists and 12 line breaks, and is averaging almost 130 running metres a week.

“He is improving all the time,” Kiwis coach Michael Maguire told the Herald. “His leadership out on the field, taking control and really dominating a game. You see how he has evolved with his teammates at Parramatta; he is really finding his voice and is a big part of their team. That’s adding to the success they are having.”

Brown shrugs off any comparisons to Marshall — and also Shaun Johnson, who was a childhood idol — and knows he has a long way to go.

But he also wants to forge his own path and has been a dominant voice at Kiwis training this week, making his presence felt at his first camp.

He wanted to “up the ante” this season, after a below average 2021 campaign. He pays tribute to the influence of Eels halves partner Mitchell Moses, as well as their bludgeoning forward pack, for sharpening his output.

Brown is also happier off the field, after the Covid chaos of last year and is enjoying flatting with fellow Kiwis Isaiah Papali’i and Hayze Perham.

“People would think it was a bit of a party house, especially being footy players,” said Brown. “But us Kiwis are all pretty humble blokes, we don’t tend to get into too much trouble.”

Life is good but Brown’s ascent has been hard-earned since he packed his bags for Sydney as a 15-year-old.

Growing up in Whangārei, he was mostly focused on rugby but dabbled in both codes when he could.

“I would play Saturday rugby and Sunday league,” said Brown. “League was always good, a few extra days off school, to go to tournaments.”

One event proved particularly pivotal, as Brown represented the Northern Swords in a national schoolboy tournament.

“I was a union boy but went over to one of the rep league teams,” said Brown. “I picked them one year instead of...

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