Wests Tigers recruit Jackson Hastings has rushed to the defence of beleaguered playmaker Luke Brooks, who he believes is one of the most “mentally tough” players in the NRL.
The Tigers are in the midst of their worst start to a season as a joint venture club and halfback Brooks has copped the brunt of the scrutiny.
Brooks has struggled to ignite the Tigers’ attack, which has produced just three tries in the past three matches.
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Coach Michael Maguire opted against dropping the 27 year-old for Monday’s clash with the Parramatta Eels, instead naming Hastings at halfback and shifting Brooks to five-eighth, where the Tigers are hoping his running game can flourish.
“I’ve played seven (halfback) pretty much my whole life so it wasn’t a massive move for myself. It’s more around just trying to get a result,” said Hastings, who is returning from a three-match suspension this weekend.
“(The shift) just frees ‘Brooksy’ up.
“He can be himself, run the ball and play some eyes up football. Hopefully it works. Hopefully we see ‘Brooksy’ with a man of the match performance and a smile on his face.
“If anyone deserves it, it’s definitely ‘Brooksy’.”
Hastings said Brooks had looked “really good” training at five-eighth this week and that his positive attitude in the face of criticism had been impressive.
“I feel awful for what he has to go through and I feel awful for what his family has to go through, but in saying that, he’s a pretty amazing character,” Hastings said.
“I’ve never seen anyone get beat up the way he does by the media and the way he takes that mentally is pretty incredible.
“I’ve never seen him kick stones or complain once or say, ‘This is unfair’.
“He turns up to training and busts his backside to make himself and to make our team better.
“The way he turns up to training with a smile on his face … you never see him down in the dumps, he’s never got a bad attitude.”
Hastings said he hoped he could ease the pressure on his teammate.
“He just wants to keep improving and getting better at his footy. If I can play a small role in helping him get to be a tiny bit better, then I’ll be happy to do so,” Hastings said.
“He’s one of the better blokes I’ve come across in football. I’ve got a lot of time for ‘Brooksy’.”
The Tigers will be desperate to finally open their account in 2022 when they meet the Eels on Easter Monday.
“Every game is an opportunity to get better,” Hastings said.
“I feel like we have definitely gotten better this week. It’s easy to say that now, but come Monday, we’ve got to show that we’ve gotten better.”