- Troy Whittaker
- Fri 9 Aug 2019, 01:00 PM
Eels lock Nathan Brown charges into figurative brick walls each week but reckons it's easy compared to facing Australian fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
Once a lean left-handed batsman who quit rugby league for a year to prioritise cricket, Brown represented the NSW under-17s alongside Cummins and played with Starc at the same grade club, Western Suburbs.
Trying to fend away heat-seeking deliveries from the fearsome future international duo in training and games helped convince Brown that footy was more his go.
"I think that was when I knew. I was like, 'Far out, facing these guys in matches, I struggle'," Brown laughed to NRL.com.
Brown struck a third-grade century for Wests in the 2009/10 summer but it wasn't long before he zipped up his cricket kit to focus on cracking the NRL.
History has proven the 104kg forward was wise to choose that path, having made 77 NRL appearances to date with Wests Tigers, South Sydney and Parramatta.
However, the 26-year-old does occasionally wonder what could have been had he pursued the gentleman's game.
"[I think about it] a little bit. I really enjoy cricket but I know I made the right decision. I was at a young age so I didn't really know how far I was going to go in cricket," Brown said.
Brown's passion for cricket is evident - he broke into a bowling action as he walked across Parramatta's training field on Wednesday - and that meant a few nights glued to the TV as the Ashes began last week.
Cummins took seven wickets in Australia's opening Test victory against England at Edgbaston, while Starc wasn't selected.
"I thought the first innings we were under pressure but Steve Smith's a legend and got us home. He's a beauty," Brown said.
"I definitely watch it, I played a bit with Starcy and Cummins and that, so it's good to see them when I'm watching the TV and I hope they go well."
In the NRL world, Brown and the Eels look assured of a finals berth, sitting nicely in sixth position with five rounds remaining.
Brown missed 11 weeks after rupturing his pectoral just 18 minutes into the season and feels he's returning to his best following seven straight matches.
"It was tough - I don't think you can get any worse than the start of the season, the first game," Brown said of his injury.
"I'm starting to get more minutes under my belt and starting to enjoy footy because that's what I love to do."
Brown powered through 67 minutes in last Sunday's 12-4 win over the Dragons, posting 148 run metres and 40 tackles in a typical workhorse performance.