“There’s not a lot [of experience], but there’s going to be a lot of energy,” Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said.
“They are very coachable and it’s going to take time. We’re also not making any excuses, we’re confident they can get the job done.
“They are going to get better with time on the field.”
Mahoney, who didn’t debut until halfway through last season, isn’t concerned about the spine’s lack of experience.
“I don’t think so. Numbers mean a lot, but they don’t in a way,” Mahoney said.
“We’ve trained really well in the pre-season and the spine has really gelled. We know what needs to be done and in the trial match [against Penrith] we’ve seen what can be done.”
Brown will run out against Penrith at Panthers Stadium without a single first-grade game to his credit, but good judges believe he has the makings of a superstar. The Warriors identified him as a replacement for Kiwis playmaker Shaun Johnson and tried to poach him – possibly in contravention to anti-tampering rules – on a deal worth more than $3 million.
He won’t be flying under the radar after impressing during Parramatta’s 20-0 trial win against Sunday’s opponents just a fortnight ago.
“He’s a good player, he’s not scared to take on the line,” Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary said after that performance.
“Come round one, we’ll definitely have to be wary of him.”
Brown has consistently played above his age as he came through the grades, developing a reputation as playmaker unfazed by pressure or outside noise.
“I’ve heard some good judges say that they particularly like his demeanour, the way he goes about it,” legendary Eels halfback Peter Sterling said.
“Until we see him doing it week in and week out against the best, we make those estimations and decisions later on. The raps around him are good but he comes into a pressure situation for a side that’s got a lot to prove.
“It’s not easy for him, but the reports are good.”
Penrith have made no secret of their desire to run as much traffic at Brown as possible in defence. To do so, they will first have to get past Shaun Lane. The Manly recruit has been tasked with acting as Brown’s bodyguard to keep him fresh in attack.
“That’s what the back-rower’s job is, to try to help the little fella outside you,” Lane said.
“Even though he’s only 18 he has a very mature head on his shoulders, he’s a tough little bugger.
“He’s not going to take any backward step, that’s for sure. I’ve gone up against him at training and if they want to go out him, I say go at him all day. He’ll just keep turning up.”
Brown won’t be the only debutant for the blue and golds. Fijian winger Maika Sivo will make his debut as a replacement for the injured George Jennings. While much of the focus is on new recruit Blake Ferguson, Michael Jennings said his new three-quarter partner had similarities to Radradra.
“He’s pretty bad at fitness but on the field he’s unreal,” Jennings said. “Exactly like Semi.”
PUNTING ON YOUTH – PARRAMATTA’s SPINE
- The average age of Parramatta’s spine (consisting of debutant Dylan Brown, Mitchell Moses, Clint Gutherson and Reed Mahoney) is just 22.1 years. It is this youngest round-one spine this century.
- Newcastle have the next youngest spine in round one with an average age of 24.2 years.
- Parramatta’s spine has just 180 games between them. Gutherson has made 66 NRL appearances, Brown none, Moses 105 and Mahoney nine.
- Parramatta’s round-one opponent, Penrith, had a total of just 36 games of spine experience in round 18 of last season. They were one of 12 teams to boast less games than the current Eels spine due to injuries, but no team has kicked off their campaign with so little experience.
Source: Champion data
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.