Tim Sheens has taken a swipe at Luke Brooks' critics after the Wests Tigers left the Cowboys in disarray with a record 66-18 win at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday. The Cowboys visited the last-placed Tigers on Saturday as firm favourites, despite signs Sheen's men were turning their form around in recent weeks.
However, no one in the NRL community could have predicted the mauling that awaited the visitors as the Tigers ran in 11 tries and 11 conversions to produce one of the best performances seen from any team in 2023. On a horror night for North Queensland, the Cowboys missed 54 tackles, conceded almost double as many metres as the Tigers and gave themselves next-to-no service with the ball.
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The Tigers haven't cracked 50 points in eight years and produced their largest points tally in the club's history, including before the merger. Balmain cracked 60 points in 1944 and Wests did it in 1974.
To make the landmark more incredible, Brooks was playing his 200th game for the club and was instrumental in his best performance of the year. At full-time, Tigers fans chanted Brooks' name in a show of appreciation for the much-maligned No.7.
And Sheens was quick to defend the halfback who has been under fire all year. In his post-match press conference, Sheens took aim at the social media trolls that have whacked the 28-year-old for his performances.
"People on Twitter are giving him grief, as far as I am concerned they can take their Twitter and shove it," a defiant Sheens said. "He's been playing well for the last month. Ok, he wasn't scoring seven tries a game. But people seem to think that's what it's got to be....I know he is earning a lot of money but that is not his fault.
"Between the work that Benji and the staff put into him, he is playing footy with a smile on his face. That is the difference." Fans were also thrilled for the 28-year-old with the NRL world exploding over the Tigers' performance.
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) May 20, 2023
You’d have to say this Luke Brooks best game in about 3 years. Love him or hate him, he’s put in a shift in the first 40.
— Brenden (@brendenfingers) May 20, 2023
No-one touch that scoreboard until the next gameday at Leichhardt Oval!#NRLTigersCowboys
— shane (@eshaaanes) May 20, 2023
— CenZilla (@BabyBlueCivic_) May 20, 2023
Luke Brooks' contract negotiations continue
Brooks has been at the centre of contract negotiations in recent months with his current deal set to end after the 2023 season. And the halfback himself said he wasn't aware of where he will be next year.
"Honestly, I don't know," Brooks said. "Whatever happens, happens. If I stay here, it would be nice; if it doesn't happen, so be it."
The Tigers halfback has so far made a point to stay out of negotiations and leave them with his management, and said he would only enter them once his manager brings him an offer. But he remains realistic that the romanticism of finishing as a one-club player may not be realistic.
"It's good to know you're wanted. I've enjoyed staying out of it, and I'll let my manager and the club sort it out," Brooks said. "It always helps with the coach backing you.
"It doesn't happen too often (to be a one-club player), but anything can happen." Sheens said the club will spend time during next week's bye to table an offer for the 28-year-old.
If Brooks does stay, Tigers fans will hope Saturday night represents a new dawn for both him and the club. The playmaker had a hand in three tries, but it was the way he was happy to run the ball and show a willingness to kick early that was most pleasing.
His form has coincided with the Tigers winning three of their past four games, with Brooks standing up and taking control with Adam Doueihi out for the year.
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