ROCKHAMPTON, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Luke Brooks of the Tigers looks dejected after losing the round 23 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Cronulla Sharks at Browne Park, on August 21, 2021, in Rockhampton, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

It appears the Wests Tigers simply refuse to listen to that rhetoric though, with the Luke Brooks saga continuing to drag on at the club, who currently sit second last on the NRL ladder - and that only by virtue of a stunning win last weekend over the Brisbane Broncos without the aforementioned Brooks away from home.

One week may not be enough to judge a new-look Tigers’ spine on, but the signs were certainly positive with both Jock Madden and Adam Doueihi playing excellent football and directing the forwards splendidly to ultimately shut down Kevin Walters’ high-flying surprise packet of 2022.

More importantly, Jackson Hastings seems to have fit into the lock role well, although any more evidence of that will have to go on the backburner through to next year after he had his leg broken by a Patrick Carrigan hip drop type tackle during the contest.

NRL Rd 2 - Knights v Wests Tigers

The kicker to their performance on Saturday night is that Luke Brooks was missing.

After more than 175 games in the NRL, the halfback is yet to fully realise his potential at the Tigers, having never played a single finals game.

He holds the NRL's most unwanted individual record via the stat - more games without a final than anyone else.

He has been through a rotating door of halves partners, spine players and it seems as if the Tigers have simply held him hoping he would eventually hit the potential he was destined to when the club stuck with him as the only surviving member of the big four.

The other three - James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Aaron Woods - have all gone on to play representative football, while the Tigers haven't played a single final since, and Brooks hasn't looked close to representative football.

It's hard to ping the entire blame for a club on Brooks - the Tigers undoubtedly have plenty of other problems; the coaching carousel, the media innuendo and the baffling contract choices for players around Brooks. None of it has helped the halfback as he has battled to get his career on the right trajectory.

But there can be no denying the Tigers played one of their best games since Brooks debuted on Saturday - without him on the park.

The reason 2023 now becomes so important for the joint venture is that it's the ultimate time to hit reset. Moving Michael Maguire on was always going to happen, with the only question being during the season or after it.

Tim Sheens guiding Benji Marshall before he takes over as the club's next coach is also a mega call, but it's no good doing that with the same baggage that has been with the club for ten years.

What the Tigers need more than anything in their playing roster is a fresh start.

No emotional baggage from a decade of heartbreak and a decade of being beaten down by the media. No experience with the club's continued struggles at the bottom of the ladder.

They need a clean slate, and the only way that is ever going to be able to happen is without Brooks.

But unlike previously, the club no longer need to hit the transfer market to effectively replace Brooks, because the answer is right on their doorstep.

Jock Madden has looked like a first-grade player every time he has stepped onto the park, and his combination with Doueihi on Saturday evening against the Broncos looked natural. It flowed freely, and the Tigers looked like a strong football team.

But that was also backed up with other youth coming through the system, and the move of Hastings to lock - and it's worth remembering that many judges had Hastings pegged into the 13 jumper before the season kicked off.

However, the fact that the club have the likes of Fonua Pole, Austin Dias, Brendan Tumeth, William Kei, Junior Tupou, Junior Pauga, Shawn Blore (who has spent this year injured), Asu Kepaoa, Justin Matamua, Rua Ngatikaura and Apisalome Saukuru in their system is a strong reminder of what they have been building.

Sheens has spoken about it numerous times - that the club are going to move down the path of developing their own talent, as if to copy the Panthers' model.

And with two strong junior nurseries, an elite academy and a changing face of the future direction, it's the right way to go for the club.

But that then flies directly in the face of Sheens essentially saying just this week that they'd like to keep Brooks around beyond the end of 2023, albeit at a cheaper price.

Keeping him for 2023 is too long however.

If they are doing so for the experience, then why can't Doueihi, Hastings and the arriving Apisai Koroisau handle that side of the coin?

If they are doing so because they genuinely believe Brooks could still hit his potential in a Tigers jersey, then you'd have to ask if they have been reading the same records and statistics, as well as watching the same performances on field that we have over the years.

If the Newcastle Knights - or any other club for that matter - want to pay $500,000 of Brooks' $1.1 million salary for next year, then the Tigers should be biting their hand off.

The risk of losing Jock Madden - who, again, has looked every bit a first-grade player - and blowing up the club's restart with emotional baggage of a player who you have been waiting for eight years to hit his potential is simply too great.

The Tigers have made plenty of questionable calls over the journey, but there should be no questions this time.

This is a side who could be on the way up, and setting up for the future, but losing the most important piece of that puzzle to retain one who hasn't worked for eight years simply doesn't add up.

1 COMMENT

  1. I couldnt agree more. I’m a long, long time Wests Tigers fan and despite currently having a poor season I think there could be exciting times ahead for the club. Douihi and Madden make a good competitive halves pairing, and having Hastings able to move from lock to fill for injuries etc leaves a good replacement. I believe that the Tigers should be on the market for a good right centre and left sided back rower, but before anything Brooks must be released! He’s asked for a release too so its not like the Tigers are being disloyal to him. He is too much money to keep around for depth, and what the Tigers can definantly use the space on the salary cap to bolster the team in other areas. It’s a fresh start for all involved and I for one will be very very frustrated and dissappointed if they let Madden go and keep Brooks. He has to go!

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