NRL: Eels wary of understrength South Sydney.
NATHAN Brown, last Saturday, was spotted drinking beers at Randwick racecourse.
With Mitchell Moses.
Yep, that same Wests Tigers playmaker who, a night earlier, he levelled in a tackle so late it rocked the Wests Tigers bus leaving ANZ Stadium.
Yet now, here they were.
Suited up and sharing beers in the members.
“Those Tigers boys, they get Browny,’’ explains Balmain great Paul Sironen.
“Guys like Mitch Moses, Kyle Lovett, my young bloke Curtis, they’ve spent a lot of time together. And because of that they know the type of guy he really is.”
Which is what exactly?
For when South Sydney run out against Parramatta at ANZ Stadium tonight, you can bet all eyes will be on Brown and that ongoing, err, crime spree.
A controversial run which, starting a fortnight back, involved this Redfern slugger almost rendering Gold Coast Titan Agnatius Paasi a eunuch. Then five days later, in Friday Night Football, levelling Moses with that tackle later than CityRail.
At which point, social media erupted. So too, newspaper columnists, Fox Sports commentators, even NRL judiciary chairman Michael Buettner, who, despite not finding enough evidence to ban him for either indiscretion, still labelled the attack on Paasi’s parts a “dog act”.
Yet as for his own side of the story? Sadly, Brown isn’t talking.
On Wednesday, a Bunnies staffer explaining how, sorry, but their prop would not be sitting down with League Central this week, lest he be “kicked again” in print.
Which is a shame.
For, yes, yes, yes … we understand the furore currently surrounding this Rabbitohs renegade, still only 23.
Even sympathise with a fella who, in only a fortnight, has been catapulted from anonymity to Public Enemy No.1.
The criticism suddenly so widespread, even Moses refused to comment on his old Tigers teammate yesterday, fearful of the headline he might inadvertently create.
So instead, we phoned Sirro.
Remembering that apart from having managed Brown as a Balmain SG Ball player, this cult Kangaroo also comes from an age when men branded mad would pin said statement to their chests. You know, like John Wayne did tin stars.
For how much do you reckon Blocker Roach craved the enforcer tag? Or Mark Geyer?
And find me a footballer — or, indeed, a first grade coach — who doesn’t salivate at the thought of having their very own Gorden Tallis, Dave Klemmer or Jared Waerea-Hargreaves?
“And Browny, he’s exactly the same,’’ Sironen insists. “Early on at Balmain, he certainly caused the coaching staff some headaches.
“But so what?
“Yes, the kid has a short fuse. Plays hard, rips in and doesn’t back down to anyone.
“But as for people calling him a dog? Nah. Definitely not.”
And on that point, Andrew Johns agrees. So too Brad Fittler, the City Origin coach who, having picked Brown after only a handful of NRL games, then watched him overrun a Country side boasting Blues Boyd Cordner, James Maloney and Tyson Frizell.
“But that’s Nathan,’’ says Ted Gardiner, the Cabramatta Juniors president who has known this young firebrand since age six.
“He’s always done everything at a million miles an hour. If not, he wouldn’t be where he is now.”
Indeed, to really understand how Brown plays, you have to know where he’s from.
Specifically, hearing how despite a promising cricket career — Gardiner remembers a manager coming on board to sort his future aged 13 — this wiry schoolboy instead devoted himself to league.
“And there were a lot of us thought he’d go the other way,’’ says Lenny Windshuttle, coach of an under-13 side which included both Brown and Junior Paulo. “Because Nathan was a shy kid.
“Kept to himself and didn’t really show too much aggression. But still, footy was all he wanted.”
So imagine giving up a promising cricket career in Parramatta for the Eels to then show no interest.
Or signing on with the Wests Tigers, who only let you debut after so many dramas in 2013, well, a second-tier cap exemption was required to get you on.
And still, nobody remembers Brown’s arrival at the SCG. Another Tigers debutant named Luke Brooks ensuring that.
“But Nathan, he’s always been a footballer who, at best, you’d describe as average,’’ says one club insider. “He isn’t big for a prop. Or fast.
“But look at him now with Souths, he’s consistently one of their best.”
“Timing,’’ says Hayden Knowles, the former Tigers sprint coach who reunited with Brown in City camp. “Nath isn’t the most gifted or naturally powerful athlete.
“But you can tell he works tirelessly on the timing of his runs. That’s why every time he hits the advantage line, he looks to be punching through at speed.”
Others close to Brown insist Souths coach Michael Maguire has also been the making of him. Convinced the same hard line stance which pushed Chris Grevsmuhl to Penrith has also pushed this fringe forward to NRL success.
“So to see people labelling him a boofhead, or the biggest grub in the game, no, he’s far from that,’’ continues Gardiner, whose own son Nathan played six years with Cronulla.
“Yes, he’s determined. A competitor. But what’s wrong with that?”
“All these people saying he’s a dog, a thug, whatever, they’ve got it wrong,’’ he says.
“A bloke like Browny, he’s exactly what you want in an NRL front-rower.”