NRL Rd 16 - Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 04: Luke Brooks of the Tigers looks on after a Rabbitohs try during the round 16 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Leichhardt Oval on July 04, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Tim Sheens denied it. The press will keep hounding on it. Luke Brooks’ future is seemingly still up in the air, but for the good of everyone, it's time for change.

But no matter how much the Tigers deny it and want to keep Brooks, the time is now to move him on.

This isn’t a shot at guessing where he might go, or speculating which club might be interested in him.

It’s a storyline which has followed the competition around like a bad smell this season, and it’s impacting the Tigers like never before.

When a club has to come out on a Sunday night to address rumours around a player who reportedly doesn’t even want to be at the club because he doesn’t want to be coached by Michael Maguire, there are underlying problems.

Those underlying problems are seemingly obvious to everyone else, but somehow, not to Sheens, Maguire, club CEO Justin Pascoe and the Tigers.

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Because somehow, not making the finals for ten years and having the competition’s most capped player without a single finals game is being deemed acceptable.

Yes, Brooks is contracted at Concord until 2023. Yes, he is one of their most experienced players. Yes, he has the potential to be a star.

Acknowledging those points will only lead you back to the start though, and it's time to rip the band-aid off.

A contract is hardly worth the paper it’s written on in the modern-day NRL, while experience is good if it produces results. Otherwise, experience is meaningless.

And as for potential - how long do you wait? Brooks made his debut eight seasons ago, and has spent the best part of seven seasons at the helm, steering his club around the park.

He has played 163 NRL games, and while he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in that time, that’s all it is. Glimpses.

That isn’t justification for continuing to start him in the halves each week. It isn’t justification to continue holding him to the club and thinking things will magically turn around.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Tigers are a club who clearly haven’t heard that saying and missed the memo on how good change can be.

You look at the other clubs who finished in the bottom four last year, and they are trying things. They are changing. The Bulldogs have signed what feels like half the competition, the Broncos have added Adam Reynolds and gotten rid of players like Tevita Pangai Junior, and the Cowboys have also moved on Jake Clifford as they attempt to build from the bottom.

The Tigers though are seemingly happy to just keep going around in circles. Brooks will play, but when Adam Doueihi was their best performer in 2021 alongside Daine Laurie, it’s time to give them control of the team.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21: Adam Doueihi of the Wests Tigers looks dejected during the round two NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Sydney Roosters at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, on March 21, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Alongside them, Jackson Hastings should walk into a starting spot, but he won’t, because Brooks is there.

The club need to sign an experienced, veteran half who knows how to win. Who knows how to make the pointy end of the season. Someone like the recently retired Benji Marshall, who South Sydney turned into a focal figure off the bench.

Someone like Chad Townsend who has gone to the Cowboys and is a grand final winner. The player doesn’t need to be an out and out star, but it needs to be a bonafide winner who can help steer the ship and bring calmness to Maguire’s coaching.

And as for Brooks?

The longer he stays at the Tigers, potentially the worst this is going to get, and the worse it’ll be as he heads to his next contract at the end of the 2023 season.

A change of clubs could spark that potential in Brooks though. The Tigers haven’t been able to get it out of him, but put him into other environments, alongside winners, and he may just learn how to be one himself.

This isn’t working anymore. It will never work as it looked like it once may have, although you could argue Brooks and the Tigers has never worked.

It’s time for Brooks to move, for the benefit of all parties involved.