Jackson Hastings has launched an unprompted and impassioned defence of Luke Brooks, declaring his Wests Tigers halves partner should be considered among the NRL’s best playmakers.
Brooks had one of his finest moments in years on Saturday night, booting the Tigers to a 23-22 win over South Sydney with a final-minute field goal.
A regular punching bag for long-suffering Tigers fans, the 27-year-old Brooks was beaten from pillar to post over the joint-venture’s winless opening five weeks.
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Brooks admitted to media he had reached his lowest ebb after the round-three loss to the Warriors, before Hastings stepped in.
“Can I just make something clear? We play a team sport, and the whipping boy has just been the tag he has got year after year,” Hastings said.
“If you actually go look at his numbers, which I have, and you stack them up against the best halves in the comp, he is always up there.
“You don’t win Dally M halfback of the year (in 2018) for no reason.”
Hastings understands Brooks’ plight as well as anyone, having endured his own battles and headlines when he left the NRL in 2019.
His comments come with the pair appearing to have found the right balance with Hastings taking the No.7 jersey and Brooks being shifted to five-eighth last week.
Brooks has stated he is feeling far less pressure in the No.6, free to run the ball more and play a more expansive game.
Hastings is more vocal in attack, with the Tigers completing at 98 per cent against Souths after the halfback kicked them to a one-point win over Parramatta last week.
“I got the glory last week and everyone wants to say how good was the field goal, but he was our best player,” Hastings said.
“And again (against Souths) he was our best player. And I am not just saying that because he is standing here, I will say that in front of everyone.
“The bloke deserves a lot of credit … not only because of the mental toughness and resilience, but the fact he has copped it for 10 years and he rocks up every week and plays the way he does.
“He’s tenacious, his defence is unreal.
“He is the halfback for the last 10 years and is this club’s leader, and he puts his hand up to go play hooker for half an hour.
“Do any other halfbacks do that?”
Brooks was as relieved as anyone on Saturday night, having previously spoken about how he has switched off social media and the news in a bid to avoid the critics.
“I have learned a lot over the past few years about being resilient and not worrying too much about what people are saying,” Brooks said.
“(Jackson) has helped me a lot and just to hear those words, it feels good.
“I feel the same about him … He is the player we needed. He’s got that (stuff) you attitude we needed.”