Return to NRL excites Dragon Witt

RUGBY LEAGUE

Eleven years his senior, and half-a-world away was Michael Witt when Luke Brooks tore the Dragons to shreds in his NRL welcoming parade.

Now, Witt feels like he's also making his "debut all over again" against the Tigers whiz kid on Sunday.

In one of the most unlikely match-ups of the season's opening round, Witt will end more than five years in the NRL wilderness to lock horns with the game's heir apparent to the best halfback throne.

The Tigers were granted a salary cap exemption in time for then 18-year-old Brooks to torture the Dragons in his debut late last year.

Coincidentally his second game in the big time will also come against St George Illawarra, this time at ANZ Stadium rather than the the SCG turf.

He probably wouldn't have suspected he would be directly opposing 30-year-old journeyman Witt, whose last top grade game in Australia was with the Warriors in 2008.

Quizzed on whether he thought he would ever return to the NRL, Witt said: "I guess probably not ... no. I thought I would probably finish in England but I couldn't be more excited now.

"I almost feel like I'm making my debut again. I'm champing at the bit.

"I watched that game [when Brooks starred on debut]. I don't know a lot about him. I know he's a good young kid and he's had a lot of praise put on him [but] hopefully he doesn't go too well on Sunday."

While the Dragons only have 80 minutes of top grade footage to dissect Brooks, Tigers forward coach [and Mercury columnist] Steve Roach has had a first-hand look at the No 7 throughout a gruelling preseason.

Brooks will be paired with veteran Braith Anasta, opposing Dragons marquee man Gareth Widdop, in the halves for Mick Potter's men.

Roach is glowing in his praise of Brooks' suitability to the weekly rough and tumble of the NRL, claiming he's "going to be great".

"His build reminds me of Joey [Andrew Johns]," Roach said. "He's a powerful halfback. He's a lot bigger than what people think and he's very guided in his kicking game.

"You can just see when he plays and trains in opposition he's so composed. Nothing fazes him and he's not a big talker or a big walker ... he's just born to do it."

Witt's steady hand in the organising role will complement Widdop, who will be charged with providing the attacking spark to a Dragons side desperate to bed down their halves.

In between NRL appearances, Witt even tried his hand at rugby union before he spent four years in the English Super League [the last two with the London Broncos].

He said that the chance to come back to the Dragons was only one he took with an eye to returning to the NRL.

"I certainly didn't come back here to play reserve grade," he said. "I haven't played in the NRL for a long time now so I'm keen to get out there and test myself.

"I feel like I trained pretty hard so I'm very excited to get back out there."

Witt also offered some encouragement for Sam Williams, the man who was thought to have first crack alongside Widdop, who will turn out for the Illawarra Cutters today.

" ... I can guarantee you every bloke that has missed the 17 is disappointed.

"That's part and parcel of having a healthy squad," he said.

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