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Sheens shuts down Brooks exit speculation

Tim Sheens has shot down any chance of Luke Brooks moving to Newcastle, declaring the halfback will see out his contract with Wests Tigers.

In his first public statement since returning to the joint-venture as football director, Sheens made a point to defend Brooks and his position at the club.

It came after the Tigers half met with club management on Sunday, insistent nothing had changed from his end and that he was committed to improving the club.

Brooks had emerged as a possible option to replace Mitchell Pearce at Newcastle, with Pearce a target for the France-based Catalans.

Pearce still has a year left to run on his NRL deal, but the veteran is expected to meet with Knights officials this week over his future.

Regardless, the Tigers have made clear that if Pearce does go, Brooks won’t be his replacement.

“Luke is a proud local junior and an extremely talented halfback, who has shown an unquestionable level of commitment to Wests Tigers over a number of years,” Sheens said.

“It is clear that he remains an integral part of the long-term plans of Wests Tigers.

“And, in speaking with him, he too is equally focused and passionate on delivering sustained success for the club.”

Brooks was the club’s player of the year this season and also attracts a discount on their salary cap as a long-serving player.

The Tigers have signed Jackson Hastings for next year, but fellow half Adam Doueihi is expected to miss the first half of the year as he recovers from knee surgery.

Hastings has been a star in his three years in the Super League, but hasn’t had a consistent run as a starting half in the NRL since the Sydney Roosters’ 2016 horror show.

Without Brooks, that would leave Hastings partnered with the untried Jock Madden as the Tigers playmakers for the first half of the year.

Likewise, Madden has played just three NRL games and has had limited football in the past two years with reserve grade seasons cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Luke Brooks is contracted with Wests Tigers until at least the end of 2023 and, contrary to media speculation, will not be leaving the club,” Sheens said.

“Wests Tigers have been definitive on this matter and will continue to reiterate this against any untrue speculation.

“It is unfair on Luke, his teammates and family, as well as those involved with the club, to raise false conjecture on his future lying away from Wests Tigers.

“When both he and the club are united on delivering success together.”

Beyond Brooks, the Knights do have other options if Pearce is let go.

Jake Clifford impressed in his 13 games for the club at five-eighth last year after arriving from North Queensland.

Youngster Phoenix Crossland is one option to partner Clifford if the Knights release Pearce and don’t land a replacement.

Alternatively, the Knights could shift Kalyn Ponga to five-eighth in a move that would allow Tex Hoy to play fullback with both dynamic players on the field at the same time.

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