The Dolphins have discussed taking much-maligned playmaker Luke Brooks off the Wests Tigers next season but the Concord club will need to throw in plenty of his $1.1 million contract.
It also depends on what happens with Anthony Milford at the Newcastle Knights.
The Dolphins have a handshake agreement for Milford to join the NRL’s 17th side next season but the Knights have also been busily chipping away at trying to keep him in the Hunter for 2023.
If any coach is going to get the best out of Tigers playmaker Brooks, surely it’s Wayne Bennett.
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You’ve only got to go back to the way Wayne transformed Jamie Soward from a punching bag to a premiership-winner at St George Illawarra or even more recently the form of Cody Walker last year to see how can sprinkle the magic dust.
Brooks is on close to $1 million this year rising to $1.1 million next year so if the Dolphins move is going to happen the Tigers are going to have to throw in plenty.
Brooks was well entitled to let the Tigers administration have both barrels on Wednesday when he was very pointed about how a plan hatched to axe him to NSW Cup made its way into the media.
The litany of stuff ups coming out of the Tigers front office over the course of the last seven years never ceases to amaze.
From Jason Taylor being sacked three rounds into the 2017 season to Ivan Cleary getting on and off the bus, there was the Big Four debacle surrounding James Tedesco, Mitch Moses, Aaron Woods and Brooks, the treatment of club legends Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall, the internal reviews, the Michael Maguire tenure, you get the idea.
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The one common denominator though all of it has been the same administration of the organisation spinning around in circles somehow driving the club further into a seemingly never-ending pit of quicksand.
Tigers playmaker Brooks has endured four head coaches and two interim coaches over the course of the last ten seasons at Concord.
He’s always bitten his tongue and tried his guts out for the club he grew up supporting as a local junior.
What sometimes gets lost in the criticism around Brooks is it’s not his fault the Wests Tigers administration ticked off on handing him a monster contract.
Plenty of good judges in rugby league will tell you the best thing for Brooks and the best thing for the Tigers is a fresh start.
BENNETT HAS MUNSTER ON SPEED DIAL
The Melbourne Storm’s main beef around Wayne Bennett’s continued pursuit of Cameron Munster is the seven-time premiership winner has got the Queensland State of Origin five-eighth on speed dial.
Yep, Wayne and Cameron regularly have a yak on the phone.
Munster won the Wally Lewis Medal in 2020 in the worst Queensland State of Origin team in history — that comment aged well — and the gun playmaker and Wayne have been great mates ever since.
The Storm fired in a second complaint to NRL headquarters last week after Wayne went on radio and spoke about the Dolphins continued pursuit of Munster.
The reality is Bennett and Munster are close from their time in Maroons camp when the pair would regularly team up to play cards.
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SHEENS NOT KEEN TO COACH, WHY MORRIS MAKES SENSE
Wests Tigers director of football Tim Sheens has set the record straight about the push for the four-time premiership-winner to take over as head coach at Concord.
Off the back of Cameron Ciraldo knocking back a five-year deal, Tigers decision-makers have now begun a campaign to try and convince Sheens to step back into the hot seat world of NRL coaching.
When we contacted Sheens about the push for the coach who guided the Wests Tigers to the club’s last premiership in 2005 to return he was quick to shoot it down.
“It’s not the club’s preferred position and it’s not particularly a road I want to go down,” Sheens said.
The Tigers wined and dined a group of media at well-known rugby league restaurant Grappa last week where the concept is believed to have grown legs.
We can’t confirm or deny how much Shiraz or Chenin Blanc may have been involved.
Sheens is adamant the Tigers will sit tight in the search for the right coach to try and steer the club out of what’s rapidly developing into a complete schemozzle.
Ex-Cronulla coach John Morris is certainly one candidate on the interview list with Sheens having contacted his agent Chris Orr about setting up an interview.
Morris appears a strong option when you consider Sheens is on the record about how the club is searching for a development coach.
Morris has got DNA at the club having played 72-games there across three seasons between 2007 and 2009.
Sheens was the coach then so the pair enjoy a strong rapport.
Run an eye over the list of emerging talent Morris brought through at the Sharks and it stacks up a strong argument why he’d be a good fit for the Tigers: William Kennedy, Briton Nikora, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Sione Katoa, Toby Rudolf, Blayke Brailey, Teig Wilton and Royce Hunt.
Morris has also been around the block in terms of the dangers of getting caught up in club politics.
During his time at the Sharks as a very young NRL coach, Morris had just about every knife in the kitchen thrown at him.
It’s also a political mine field at Concord at the moment as evidenced by the bun fight around the constant leaks in terms of information coming out of the club.
We keep coming back to the old Jack Gibson line – winning starts in the front office.
IKIN, KEVVIE CLEAN UP BRONCOS MESS
Armed with all the latest cutting edge rugby league data and a perfectly constructed roster management organisational chart, it’s impossible not to admire what Broncos head of football Ben Ikin has achieved since returning to Red Hill.
The Broncos were a steaming mess when Ikin took on the job and the transformation since the long-time NRL 360 host got his feet under the desk has been nothing short of remarkable.
Sure there’s been some bumps in the road along the way but when you look at the way Brisbane have overhauled the club’s roster to move on players like Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai, Anthony Milford, Brodie Croft and Jamayne Isaako there’s been some serious heavy lifting involved.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters also deserves just as much of a rap for the way he’s been able to overhaul the roster by bringing in marquee recruits Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell and then usher through next generation players like Selwynn Cobbo and Ezra Mam.
Landing the signature of Reece Walsh is arguably the Broncos biggest coup yet especially when you consider the $2.9 million three-year offer the Dolphins were waiting to table.
Walters will no doubt enjoy a well-earned XXXX Gold about the Walsh deal at some stage while Ikin – who rarely has a beer these days – will celebrate by tucking into a salad sandwich washed down with a Kombucha.
DOGS ARE WATCHING DRAGONS YOUNG GUN
The Bulldogs are monitoring the situation with Dragons young gun halfback Jayden Sullivan.
Sullivan will get a crack wearing the Red V No.7 jumper against the Broncos on Sunday and has long been regarded as the heir apparent to play halfback at St George Illawarra.
But given the outstanding form of Dragons captain Ben Hunt you can understand why the Red V outfit are now looking to extend the existing contract of the club captain beyond the end of 2023.
Hunt has been the Dragons most consistent player this year and after year’s of scrutiny around his $1 million contract the move has proven a smart play from St George Illawarra.
Sullivan, a Wollongong junior who played for Wests Devils, is signed with the Red V through until the end of 2025.
But the Bulldogs are keeping a close watch on how the Dragons playmaking puzzle pieces together and if there’s an opportunity to present Sullivan with a direct path towards playing halfback in the NRL then Canterbury-Bankstown may explore trying to make it happen.
OLD SCHOOL BARNETT’S WINNING SMILE
In this new age where hardened forwards of the 1980s and 90s sit in stunned silence when players come flying in from all directions to jumper-grab and push-and-shove, Newcastle forward Mitch Barnett is a throwback to different times.
Barnett had both of his front teeth knocked out against the Gold Coast Titans in round 16.
Not only did Barnett come back on the field after passing an HIA assessment but he’s also planning to back up and play in round 17 on Friday night against South Sydney – still minus the two front Barrier Reef.
One of the more bizarre things about the missing teeth, Barnett was wearing a mouth guard – a lot of players don’t these days – yet still had them knocked clean out.
Barnett’s Newcastle teammates have been busy trying to make him crack a smile at and winding up at training this week about how he looks like he’s just done a stretch with some of the Hunter’s finest at Cessnock Correctional Centre.