Being a kid brother at Easts means far more than a childhood of hand-me-down footy jerseys and iPhones.
If anyone needs proof of the “family club” vibe that beats so strongly through the Tigers, you only have to look at the four sets of brothers who are featuring in Premier Grade.
Remarkably, Matt and Alex Smit, Lachy and Will Kirk, JP and Laurence Tominiko plus Matt and Puke Skipwith-Garland are all contributing as brothers in arms.
Powerhouse tighthead prop Laurence Tominiko, 23, left Sunnybank to join Easts this season to turn the front-row into a family affair.
“I’ve been at Easts since I left school and the chance to play together got my brother to the club,” loosehead JP, 21, said.
“He might have thought it better to play with me than against me after last season.”
The brothers opposed each other when Easts met Sunnybank in 2021 and all the expected banter flowed along with it.
“Yeah, yeah, all the normal stuff about he’s going to win or making a hit every time he or I got the ball.
“Turns out, Easts won and I got in the best hit. I kept the recording from Stan Sport so I send that hit to him from time to time.”
The brothers, of Samoan heritage, are close. As the younger brother, JP has lived a life of hand-me-down school clothes, rugby boots, jerseys, Playstation games and toys.
“I’ll be walking around with an iPhone 8 and Laurence will have the iPhone 12,” JP said with a laugh.
“There’s a great culture amongst the boys at Easts. It’s more than rugby, it’s a family club and we feel connected off the field as well.”
In the Kirk household, there was a constant rotation of jerseys passed on through backs Lachy, 23, Sam 22, and Will, recently 21.
Lachy has a unique origin story in terms of landing at Easts. He played all his junior rugby at GPS. It was his school coach at Gregory Terrace who recommended the Tigers.
“I was literally in a RE class in Year 12 and got called out. (Easts coaching stalwart) Pat Richards had come to the school for a chat, we spoke for 10 minutes, I went back into class and I became a Tiger,” Kirk said.
“I knew absolutely no one when I first arrived at Easts. Within four or five weeks, I was hanging around more with Tigers guys than my old school mates.
“I loved the social aspect at Easts from the start. There’s an unofficial ‘no dickheads’ policy and we all just enjoy hanging out.”
Kirk savoured the heady “Six from Six” history of 2020 as flyhalf for the reserve grade premiers.
“I quit my job (as a concreter) on the day of the grand final. I sort of knew I’d be enjoying the next week…and it was a week of celebrations to remember or not,” said the now-carpenter.
Brothers Lachy and Will have recently moved into an apartment together at Norman Park.
“It’s been fantastic getting a chance to play together off the bench in Prems,” Lachy said.
“All three brothers got on the field in reserve grade a few seasons ago. That was cool. There was plenty of backyard footy growing up so you do pick up little idiosyncrasies. I know when (halfback) Will is going to have scoot.
“He’ll always say ‘I was looking for you (in support)’ but he reckons I’m the slowest back in the club.
“Having four sets of brothers around the first grade squad is really cool. We all bounce off each other.”
The brothers in arms mentality has a long tradition at Easts. Former Queensland back Robin Mackay played first grade regularly in the 1970s beside brothers Hugh and Ranald.
To open the 1973 club season, the brothers scored five tries between them in a rousing 26-16 win over Wests.
“Actually, we played as four brothers for one trial game in the early ‘70s when another brother, Glen, joined us,” Robin recalled.
The Murdochs, 1997 premiership skipper Peter and his late brother David, were regular first grade teammates. The Waldies, Club President David and Andrew, played a single game in the centres together in third grade in the mid-1990s. The list goes on.
In the 2022 women’s side, forwards Isah Soloai and Taulaga Malaitai are sisters and regularly amongst the high performers.
Matt Skipwith-Garland was all set to retire at 30 after a productive career with Bay of Plenty in New Zealand when the lure of playing with his brother arose this season.
“I was going to retire but my feet were too itchy,” centre Matt, 30, said.
“My goal became playing with my younger brother and to get that chance has been a dream come true.
“I get the ‘old bull’ stuff around the team but I still give it to the young boys. At training, I’m telling them they’ve got to keep up with the grandfather.”
Lock Puke, 25, must be a bit weather-beaten to observers because squad-mates thought Matt was the younger of the pair when he arrived at the club.
“Puke likes to bring the laughter to the team. The culture around the club is awesome,” Matt said.
Centre Matt Smit, 25, celebrated 2020 as a frontline figure in Easts’ premiership-winning first-grade side.
Playing regular time together with livewire flanker Alex, 22, has been a feature of 2022 so far.
“We played a little bit of time together in the trials back in 2020 but to line up with your brother each week this season has been really special. Not too many can say that,” Matt said.
“Alex was the third brother in our family. He got plenty of hand-me-down jerseys but it didn’t stop him being sneaky. There might be a junior rep jersey you thought you’d tucked away forever and Alex would pop up wearing it for backyard footy.”
Matt did reveal one curiosity that regular viewers of Easts on the Stan Sports match broadcasts might have picked up.
“You’ll hear these regular burps on TV at scrum time. Alex swears he has no control over them. I’m calling BS on that,” Matt said with a laugh.
The school teacher at St Mary’s Primary School at Ipswich enjoys the brotherly vibe at Easts.
“When I look across in the huddle it is a pretty unique type of feeling with Smits, Kirks, Tominikos and Skipwith-Garlands everywhere,” Matt said.
“At Easts, I’ve always loved the club unity from first grade to Colts 4. There always seems to be a connection between someone.”
Alex agreed that the sibling bond transfers onto the field: “One thing I really enjoy is defending alongside Matt.
“From backyard footy to school footy to now playing at Easts you know the blood beside you is never going to let you down.
“It’s been a real highlight playing with Matt. This last opportunity to play with him has kept me around.
“Having the Tominiko brothers in the pack is awesome too. I think it really helps bring the forwards together.”
Matt said that his long-haired sibling undergoes a personality change inside the four walls of the Easts clubhouse.
“Alex might come across as the quieter of the brothers but you know what happens inside that Tigers’ clubhouse can change things pretty quickly,” Matt said.
Main photo: Brothers (clockwise from top left) Will and Lachy Kirk, Matt and Alex Smit, Laurence and JP Tominiko and Puke and Matt Skipwith-Garland all featured for the Tigers in their win over Norths.