Luke Brooks has never played in a finals match and the Tigers are in the midst of the longest playoff drought in the NRL - but that could all be about to change.
August 7, 2019 12:42pm
For the past seven years, the playmaker has arrived at the Wests Tigers’ Concord headquarters on the first day of the NRL pre-season full of optimism. But as each winter turned into spring, he found his ambitions to play on the big stage quashed.
The joint venture is in the midst of the league’s longest finals drought, having not made the top eight since 2011.
The fact is a harsh reminder for the Tigers’ administration, staff and players, given 14 of the 16 clubs have all played finals over the previous three seasons. Newcastle, the only other side to miss out in that time, fell one game short of the grand final in 2013.
Brooks, 24, debuted in 2013 and, as a local junior, he admits it bothers him that he hasn’t been able to get his side to the post-season. “As a player and as a team when you want to win grand finals and the only way to do that is to be in the top eight at the end of the year,” Brooks said. “I watch a bit of it - it does burn you that you’re not there. That’s definitely a driving force for us.” They have gone close on several occasions, finishing ninth in 2016 and last year.
Three years ago, they went into the final round with a golden chance to win through, only to be thumped 52-10 by Canberra at their spiritual home of Leichhardt.
Since the Tigers last made the finals, they have churned through four coaches - Tim Sheens, Michael Potter, Jason Taylor and Ivan Cleary.
Asked if it was a fair reflection of where the club had been at for the past eight years, Brooks said: “I think so. Over the past couple of years, we’ve lost games where we should have won.
“We’ve been in front and then we’d lose towards the end. At the end of the year, those games will cost you.
“It’s a different year this year.” Only three Tigers players remain from their last finals appearance in Robbie Farah, Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence.
Lawrence, 30, was a fresh-faced 22-year-old playing centre when the Tigers played the Warriors in the second week of the 2011 finals.
“It’s frustrating,” Lawrence said.
“Your number one goal on the first day of pre-season is you want to be there at the back end of the season. That’s why you play every year. You dream of playing in those big games in September.
“A lot of those years we haven’t been close, but there’s been a few where we probably should have found our way into the finals and that’s the frustrating thing.”