Why Maguire is standing by Brooks as long-term Tigers halfback
By Christian Nicolussi
July 30, 2020 — 5.57pm
Michael Maguire has declared Luke Brooks will be the Wests Tigers’ long-term No. 7 despite the star halfback spending a third straight week coming off the bench.
Maguire would not put a time frame on when Brooks will return to his preferred position, and revealed he had worked hard behind the scenes with him on several areas, including game management, one criticism often directed at the nuggety left-footer.
"This is a stage in Brooksy’s career that can make him go to a higher level,’’ Maguire said as the Tigers prepared to start short-priced favourites against the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night.
"Plenty of players have gone through something similar, it’s how they react and the work they do in the background.
"I’m seeing Brooksy do exactly what you need to do through a period like this in your career.
"This year he’s been more consistent with his defence, he had a tough day out against Souths but prior to that he was strong. He just needs to be more consistent around that space.
"And with the ball he just needs to keep developing his game.’’
Brooks was sensationally axed in favour of Billy Walters and Benji Marshall leading up to the blowout win over the Broncos. The pair were retained for last weekend’s gritty Eels loss and will again start Friday’s clash at the SCG. The hallowed Moore Park turf is where Brooks made his debut in 2013 and was immediately - and unfairly - compared to Andrew Johns.
Should the Tigers triumph against the Warriors, it would be hard to imagine Brooks, the club’s two-time Kelly Barnes winner, forcing his way back into the starting side for next week’s clash against Newcastle.
Fans have always loved Brooks for being a junior and the only one to stay put when his good mates James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitch Moses departed in 2017.
Maguire said Walters had been solid and ‘‘he plays a nice direct straight game, and I like how hard he works in the defensive line’’.
It remains to be seen whether Marshall plays on beyond this year.
Maguire said the club pin-up had been brilliant since his own spell on the sidelines, and Marshall himself spoke about how he had never felt so confident about his own game upon his return.
As Brooks wears the No. 16 jersey, joining him on the bench will be Shawn Blore who more than impressed Maguire on debut to keep his spot.
“I’ve chatted with Shawn for some time, he’s a great character and I like his attitude towards what he wants to achieve and how he wants to be seen as a player,” he said.
"He played a strong first game, but you’re always remember by what you do next.
"I just like his confidence to take on the game. He’s a young man who backs his ability.’’
Blore is eligible for New Zealand - something not lost on Maguire - while the coach added he planned to speak with Sonny Bill Williams again about pulling on the New Zealand jersey again, especially now he is back in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters.
In what could be a fairytale farewell for Williams at next year’s World Cup, Maguire said: "I spoke to Sonny some time ago, but it was about him just getting back into rugby league.
"I want that Kiwis jersey to be the pinnacle of rugby league. The guys who have worn it since I’ve been involved have changed the outlook on what the jersey represents.
"Sonny has had some great performances in that jersey and I’m hoping he’d love to do it all again.’’