On Monday, the Wests Tigers announced the signing of Wigan Warriors halfback Jackson Hastings on a two-year deal starting from 2022.
With the exit of Benji Marshall at the conclusion of the 2020 season and the scrutiny that Luke Brooks has come under in 2021, the potential impact of this signing cannot be understated.
If you ask the Tigers, they’ll tell you that Hastings has been signed as a ball-playing lock and that they are 100 percent backing Luke Brooks to lead from 7 going forward.
Much like the Balmain Tigers V Western Suburbs Magpies tension, Luke Brooks has become a real subject of division within the fan base.
For the record, it’s important to acknowledge that Brooks has had a reasonable start to the year individually. The Tigers Halfback is coming 3rd in try-assists with 7 to his name which is already more than the 4 he recorded in 2020.
It would be wrong to suggest that Luke Brooks is the biggest problem stopping the Tigers from finally becoming a contending team. However, it’s also fair to remember that the Tigers are one win and five losses to start the season and second last on the ladder.
As the Halfback of the team, the nature of the position means that Brooks shoulders a lot of the responsibility for the result of the game and there’s no doubt that he’s failed to execute in some attacking opportunities especially against the Cowboys and Bunnies.
If I’m Michael Maguire or Adam Hartigan, there’s no way that I’m putting all my eggs in the Luke Brooks basket if I want to keep my job.
I understand that the current administration resigned Brooks to a long-term deal back in 2019 which is why they’re most likely still publically committed to Brooks but if it’s the halfway point of the season and the Tigers are still in the bottom 4 of the competition, I think some serious questions need to be asked regarding the Halfback position if the club is serious about having a winning culture.
In comes Jackson Hastings.
Debuting for the Roosters and then signing for Manly only to be shipped off to Super League in England for Salford and Wigan, there’s no doubt that the young playmaker has experienced his fair share of drama.
Although some would argue that this drama has been self-inflicted, there’s also no doubt that Hastings has taken the Super League by Storm winning the 2019 Man of Steel award as well as back-to-back Grand finals for Salford and Wigan.
Many NRL fans will label the Super League as an inferior competition but this isn’t painting the full story.
While England doesn’t possess the same Junior nurseries as Australia, the top teams such as Wigan and St Helens would give most of the mid-tier NRL teams a run for their money.
While I’m not willing to come out and claim that Hastings is better than Brooks, I do think that the potential in this signing is massive. Combine this with the fact that the Tigers have managed to avoid the NRL open market which right now looks like it’s going to sky-rocket in the price for Halfbacks, we could be looking at this signing in a few years with a lot of glee.
Now for the case of where Hastings is going to play.
The Tigers have made it known that they see Hastings as a 13 in the modern game that will allow Brooks and even Doueihi wider of the ruck than they are currently operating from.
Although Alex Twal is a solid 13, there’s no doubt that the Tigers need an upgrade at lock and on paper, Hastings has the size at 98.3 Kg according to the Wigan Warriors website to make the transition.
The only thing that doesn’t make sense in this equation is that Jackson Hastings has come out publically as late as February on the Rugby League Guru podcast and stated that he wanted to come back to the NRL as either a Hooker or Half and not at Lock.
While I was not privy to any of the contract talks, it’s hard to believe that Hastings has done a 180 on this position particularly given the success he has had as a dominant 7 in the Super League.
I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that the 2019 Man of Steel could start round 1 at lock, I find it very hard to believe that Hastings hasn’t signed with the intention to push for Brook’s number 7 jersey.
For fans, while it is important to support the team, Brooks doesn’t have a mortgage on the 7 jersey, and accountability is a vital element of any successful endeavor.
There’s nothing wrong with signing Hastings as an insurance policy if Luke Brooks continues not to deliver results on the field.
This might sound stuff to some but professional sport is a results-driven business. If the Roosters don’t accept mediocrity with Kyle Flanagan, why should the Tigers with Brooks?
Image: Sky Sports