The Wests Tigers are currently in the midst of their worst start to a season in the club's history, falling to 0-5 last Sunday as they went down to the budding Cronulla Sharks 30-6.
The writing was on the wall for the maligned Tigers even before the start of the season - a coach on the hot seat, a year away from some big free-agency gains, and a halfback, their marquee player, unable to find form.
During the club's losing streak, which is eight if you include the three consecutive losses to close out 2021, their halfback, Luke Brooks, has been the main target, copping much of the blame.
This barrage of criticism that seems to follow Brooks wherever he moves on the field, and off, has apparently reached a tipping point for the Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis, who has come to bat for his $1 million dollar man.
“If it was in an employment environment, it would be tantamount to bullying,” Hagipantelis, a lawyer by trade, told The Daily Telegraph.
“The level of focus and attention on Luke I think is unwarranted and unhealthy. We speak often about welfare issues in the game. The level of scrutiny and criticism, I think, has been excessive.
“Luke has got a lot stronger intestinal fortitude than I have in the way he has dealt with all of this negative publicity and negative attention.
“I appreciate the importance of his role and the fact he’s a leader within the organisation and club and he is a footballer of exceptional ability and talent. I’m aware of the concerns with respect to fulfilment of that potential, we hear this.
“But from a club’s perspective, he has our full support. He is a Wests Tigers junior, is a one-club man and we’d love to see it remain like that and we’re certain it will. He is one member of a team and all the team accepts responsibility for the results.
“I thought he was incredible the way he stood there and explained himself and conducted himself so professionally at his media conference. It was a real credit to the young man.”
Despite this backing of his star player, Hagipantelis was not ignorant to the fact that the Tigers at times have looked disengaged and completely outclassed in this early part of the season.
“Zero and five is the worst start to a season in our history. That can’t be denied and there is no point sugar-coating it,” Hangipantelis said.
“We are all under the pump and are all feeling the pressure at the moment and correctly so but we will not be influenced and we don’t respond to outside noises, which is largely irrelevant for our purposes.”
The Tigers look to dig themselves out of this winless hole they're in as they go up against the flying Parramatta Eels this Monday.
Tigers coach, Michael Maguire, has also decided to make a positional switch in the halves, as Englishman Jackson Hastings, who returns after serving a three-game suspension, will wear the number seven jersey while Brooks will switch to the complimentary six.