WHEN whispers of a talented set of brothers from Wests Wollongong got back to former Northern Eagles chairman Ian Thomson in 2001, the first question he asked was: ''Are they good kids?''
It was at a time when the Northern Eagles - the short-lived venture between Manly and North Sydney - were trying to ''build the right image'' for the club, and Thomson was wary of the type of people, rather than footballers, the Eagles were luring to Brookvale.
''Are they from a good family?'' Thomson later asked his brother-in-law Richard McKell, who was playing first grade at the Wollongong club with the brothers.
Brett with his parents, Barry and Narelle, who have followed their sons every step of the way. Photo: Orlando Chiodo
Both answers were met with hasty assurances that these two boys were exactly what the Eagles were looking for. So Thomson made the trip down to Sid Parrish Park in Figtree to catch his first glimpse of the pair.
Lightning forced officials to call a premature end to the contest against a Dapto outfit spearheaded by Kangaroo Paul McGregor, but what Thomson saw in 60minutes was enough evidence to suggest ''they were special''. And so, too, was the bond they shared.
When Glenn and Melbourne's Adam Blair exchanged blows at Brookvale Oval six weeks ago, it was hardly a surprise to see Brett first on the scene to back his brother. Growing up, they were inseparable. It's just the way they've always been and nothing's changed.
As youngsters, Brett was the naturally gifted footballer and it came as no surprise when St George Illawarra came knocking to secure his services. But in a testament to the brothers' relationship, Brett refused to sign with the Dragons unless Glenn was part of the deal.
Brett had been plagued by a major back injury in his junior days but in a reflection of the Dragons' desire to sign the talented fullback, they overlooked his medical history and tabled an offer. However, it didn't include his big brother. The Dragons weren't convinced Glenn, who didn't feature in any of the junior representative teams, had the qualities to play first grade - at least not at the their club.
That's when the Eagles made their move. ''I invited them up to a Brookvale Oval home game and they came along and sat with myself and Paul Vautin,'' Thomson said.
''We talked about where we wanted to take the club and how the boys would fit in and how we would help them adjust to the move to Sydney. From what I saw, and the digging around I did afterwards, I was perfectly happy to take both of them. There was no discussion that we'll take Brett and also take Glenn as a sufferance. From our point of view, we wanted both of them.''
Eagles recruitment manager at the time, Keith Onslow, had already seen Brett at an OzTag tournament in Narrabeen earlier that year, and didn't need to see any more to convince him to pursue the product of the Illawarra.
Meanwhile, across the bridge at Sydney Roosters, club great great and recruitment manager Arthur Beetson was making his own arrangements to lure the brothers to the eastern suburbs. ''They came up to Sydney with their parents to meet with us,'' Beetson said. ''I spotted them. I actually went down to Wollongong and watched them both play and I said, 'Brett will make it'. I wasn't sure about Glenn. He's the one that has surprised me. But [Roosters chief executive] Brian Canavan still wanted them both.''
It was never about money, it was always about opportunity and family. Their parents Barry and Narelle were keen for the boys to remain together, especially considering Brett was a diabetic. They wanted the boys to look out for one another, and the best place they could do that was at the Sea Eagles.
They stayed with a family, who was affiliated with the club, at nearby Forestville for a year while they played in the Jersey Flegg for Manly. Then, midway through 2003, former Manly coach Peter Sharp gave Brett his first shot at the NRL when he called the then 18-year-old into the team at the 11th hour to replace injured fullback Brendon Reeves.
''I think he scored four or five tries in his first Flegg game, something ridiculous like that,'' Sharp said. ''Both of them were always going to play first grade, it was always just a matter of when.''
Unfortunately Brett's debut ended in heartache, dislocating his shoulder, ironically trying to tackle Eels centre, Jamie Lyon - now his captain at Manly. Glenn also made his debut later that year, but took a lot longer to find his feet in the top grade, playing just 18 games in his first four years in the NRL.
But the pair are now the heart and soul of the Sea Eagles. Despite public perception, those who know the brothers couldn't speak more highly of them. They have stuck together through plenty of adversity, including the emotional ordeal surrounding Brett's well publicised sexual assault trial, in which he was found not guilty. Only six weeks ago fronted the media to cover for his little brother, who wasn't up to the task.
A decade ago the Eagles went after ''good kids''. And they got them.