Newcastle Rugby: Travis Brooke back as Blacks start to take shape

STRONG: Travis Brooke breaks through a tackle in the Blacks’ 46-17 win over Singleton at Marcellin Park. Picture: Stewart Hazell

BLACKS coach Mick Hickling is confident that the patient approach to the return of boom forward Travis Brooke will prove beneficial in the finals.

Brooke was a standout in his comeback start from akneeinjury in the 46-17 win over Singleton. The nephew of All Black legend Zinzan Brooke, the lockcrossedfor a try, constantly bentthe defensive line andworked hard.

“We have taken our time with him,” Hickling said.“He saw a couple of specialists and is on top of the pain now.He might have to play with some discomfort at times, but structurally the knee is strong.He has a couple of games and thenthe week off with the long weekend. We will look after it and make sure we manage it.”

Newcastle rugby: Brooke back as Blacks start to take shape TweetFacebook Maitland v SingletonPictures: Stewart HazellJames Johnston also made a successful return to the starting side and in a further boostMichael Howell is back from an ankle injury against Uni at home on Saturday.

However, breakaway John Birrell faces a month on the sideline with a knee injury.

“Johnny had a similar issue with his medial last year and was out for four weeks,” Hickling said. “James Howell has a groin issue and if he is out, Mick Howell comes.Young lock Ben Woodreturns from the Country under-20s and we will slide Travis into the back row to cover for Johnny.”

Fullback Chris Logan also returns from NSW Country commitments, pushing Josh McCormack to the centres.

Hickling knows too well the importance of keeping players on the park. They lost Brooke, Johnston, Logan and prop James Robinson at the tail end of last season.

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