Incoming Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has confirmed he wants halfback Luke Brooks to remain at the club next season and beyond on a reduced contract.
The Daily Telegraph reported Sheens wants Brooks to see out the remainder of his contract which expires at the end of 2023, before signing an extension on a reduced salary.
Speculation is rife that the Tigers were keen to move Brooks on given his salary is worth a reported $1.3 million on their salary cap for 2023.
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Brooks reportedly twice sought a release from the remainder of his contract last season to move to the Knights, despite denials from the No.7.
The 27-year-old, who is currently injured, has scored 42 tries in 189 games for the Tigers since his debut in 2013, but has never tasted finals football during a tough period for the club, who have the longest finals drought in the NRL stretching back to 2011.
Brooks has been linked to the Dolphins and the Knights for 2023, but Sheens, who will take over the team for 2023 and 2024, wants him to stay, but on a reduced deal.
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“Obviously everyone would prefer it to be at less money,” Sheens told The Daily Telegraph.
“But we can sit down and negotiate with him and extend the contract out.”
Sheens categorically denied the club were looking to move Brooks on to free up salary cap space for 2023.
“On the record, he’s contracted,” Sheens said.
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“Point blank. He is contracted to us and I expect him to turn up for pre-season training.”
Jock Madden starred in Brooks’ absence in a win over the Broncos in Round 20, but remains unsigned beyond 2022, while the club also has Adam Doueihi and Jackson Hastings on their books for next season.
Sheens and incoming assistant Benji Marshall have publicly thrown their support behind the embattled playmaker, but the former refused to guarantee Brooks would finish his career at the Tigers.
“Unless the world changes, that’s what I’m doing (trying to get Brooks to stay),” Sheens said.
“Can I ever (guarantee he’ll stay)? Not one can. But I’m not indicating he’s leaving.
“I like the kid and I want him in the side. Benji loves him and wants him in the side. But we can’t say any more than that.”
Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis also threw his support behind Brooks.
“A guarantee is not a word that I use comfortably in my capacity as chairman or as a lawyer, but Luke Brooks has a contract with the Wests Tigers for 2023,” Hagipantelis told Fox Sports News.
“Tim Sheens spoke publicly in the last 24 hours of his intentions to retain him. We are all big fans of Luke.
“He is a one club player. I would love to see him finish out his career at the Wests Tigers.
“Are there challenges there for both parties? Perhaps. Both have identified those.
“But the reality is he is a truly gifted footballer and I would love to see him perform at his best for the Wests Tigers.”
Hagipantelis clarified that there would be no pay cut for Brooks’ existing contract and it would be up to the club and the player to meet in the middle over a contract extension.
“There will be no pay cut concerned with his current contractual arrangements,” Hagipantelis said.
“He will be paid in full. We will honor that. I think Tim was alluding to the end of the current contractual arrangements.
“Those are matters for the club and the player to negotiate what they think is a fair market value.
“It is always up in the air. There is an underlying tension of course. Players want to receive as much as they can, which is understandable and clubs want to pay as little as they can, which is of course just as understandable.
“At the moment those discussions have not been held. There is a long way to go.
“Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah are assimilating themselves into the roster at the moment. They will decide moving forward.
“Unfortunately the injuries to Luke and Jackson Hastings have thrown a little spanner into the works because I know the boys were very keen to see the combinations work for the balance of this year. But they will work it out.”
However, like Sheens, Hagipantelis left the door ajar for Brooks to potentially move on in the future if it suited both him and the club.
“Never say never because every option would be considered on its merits at the time,” Hagipantelis said when asked if he would consider an offer from another club for Brooks’ services.
“But as we speak at this very moment there is nothing on the table. There is no consideration. There is nothing before me or the board to suggest Luke Brooks will not fulfill his contractual obligations with the Wests Tigers and nothing would make me happier.”