MUCH-maligned halfback Luke Brooks could reappear as a target for the Newcastle Knights after apparently falling out of favour at Wests Tigers.
Brooks, the 27-year-old playmaker who is under contract to the Tigers until the end of next year, was linked to Newcastle in the off-season after the Knights granted Mitchell Pearce an early release to join Super League club Catalans Dragons.
At the time, Tigers football director Tim Sheens described Brooks as "an integral part of the long-term plans of Wests Tigers" and indicated that was non-negotiable.
"Wests Tigers have been definitive on this matter and will continue to reiterate this against any untrue speculation," Sheens said in November.
"It is unfair on Luke, his teammates and family, as well as those involved with the club, to raise false conjecture on his future lying away from Wests Tigers."
That position, however, might be about to change amid speculation Brooks is on the verge of being dropped to the Tigers' NSW Cup feeder team, Western Suburbs Magpies.
The 2018 Dally M halfback of the year was heavily criticised after Sunday's 36-12 thrashing by Canterbury and there have been reports that Adam Doueihi, who has returned from a knee reconstruction, is set to partner Jackson Hastings at the scrumbase.
Brooks is reportedly in line to earn more than $1 million next season and Tigers officials might now be questioning the value of their investment.
If they were willing to provide him with a partial payout and a release, the Knights could potentially sign him at a discounted rate.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien admitted last week that the club was still interested in signing a senior playmaker.
"I certainly think an experienced one with an amount of games would help ... if you look at the teams that are consistently up around the top, they are really experienced and pump a lot of money in terms of salary cap into the spine," O'Brien said.
O'Brien's coaching consultant, Knights legend Andrew Johns, said on his Channel Nine website show Immortal Behaviour on Wednesday that it would be better for both parties if Brooks parted company with the Tigers.
"It's a hard one for me, because Newcastle wanted him at the start of the year," Johns said. "I don't know how the salary cap is, if they've got money there. Everyone can see both parties need to break ... it's not working.
"I feel for both parties. I think there's still a great player in there.
"He won Dally M Halfback of the Year [in 2018], in a side which hasn't made the eight for 10 years. I think he needs a change."
Johns said in November that working with Brooks was "a challenge I would like"
"I think he can really add a lot to the club," he said at the time. "He can play great. He needs to find that consistency.
"I could help him with when to pass, when to run, when to kick but, also, I think the players around him need to understand his strengths and how to get the best out of him."
Knights CEO Philip Gardner denied in November that the club had contacted Brooks, but did not rule it out in future.
"If he was released, or if the Tigers gave him permission to explore other options, he could talk to whoever he wants," Gardner said at the time.
"But that hasn't happened, so the rules are quite clear. We're not allowed to talk to Luke Brooks, and we haven't."
The concern for Knights fans will be that Brooks has never played in a finals match in his 185-game NRL career. He may also attract interest from new franchise the Dolphins, who are yet to sign a halfback.
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