Jackson Hastings will make his NRL return with the Tigers in 2022 as Luke Brooks insists he will see out the remaining two years of his lucrative Wests Tigers deal.
Hastings has signed off on a two-year Tigers deal from next season once his current deal with Super League outfit Wigan expires at the end of 2021.
The Tigers are eyeing the 24-year-old, who represented Great Britain in four Tests in 2019, as a ball-playing utility/small forward, similar to Connor Watson’s role at Newcastle.
Tigers sources insist the pursuit of Hastings is no reflection on the standing of starting halves Brooks or Adam Douiehi (both contracted until the end of 2023).
The bid to bring Hastings back to the NRL is instead planned around expectations Billy Walters - who returned from an ACL rupture via reserve grade on the weekend - will link with father Kevin at Brisbane next year, and as a fail-safe should Moses Mbye also sign with a rival club in 2022 after being given permission by the Tigers to do so.
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"Jackson’s versatility and on-field ability will add a lot our team in the coming years, and we look forward to welcoming him to our club at the end of his current campaign with Wigan," Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said.
Hastings's previous NRL stints at Manly and the Roosters ended in controversy and ugly headlines, prompting him to rebuild his career in England.
Wests Tigers football manager Adam Hartigan coached Hastings during his formative years at the Roosters, while Michael Maguire's old coaching links at Wigan have the Tigers confident their mail is on the money and Hastings has matured significantly over the past three years.
The focus on Brooks, meanwhile, has been fierce and never more so than in recent weeks.
Amid suggestions the club is considering moving him on with two years remaining on what is understood to be a heavily back-ended contract, punters and pundits have wondered whether Brooks too would be better served by a change of scenery.
"I'm here for another few years so that's sort of out of the question for me," Brooks said, denying close confidants are urging him to consider moving on from Concord.
"I want to be here, I want to be successful at the Tigers.
"I've stuck around and I can see the club is moving in the right direction so I want to be a part of that."
Reports linking Brooks to the Cowboys under former Tigers assistant Todd Payten are understood to have prompted a meeting with club officials late last month, where the local junior was assured he was still wanted.
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Brooks said that message hasn't changed in the weeks since despite the devastating Leichhardt loss and what is now a 1-5 record, with chair Lee Hagipentalis telling NRL.com during the week that the 26-year-old "has my absolute faith and confidence".
"They have spoken to me plenty of times," Brooks said.
"I guess that's good for me that they're still backing me.
"[Coach Michael Maguire] has stuck up for me. He's helped me there and it's outside people's opinions, they're allowed to have those opinions.
"As long as Madge and the club are happy with me then [I'm happy]."
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There is little doubt upheaval under Maguire is ongoing at the joint-venture, with the Tigers willing to pay a significant portion of Mbye's 2022 salary at a rival club to free up their own cap space.
Veteran centre Joey Leilua is also unlikely at this stage to have the Tigers take up the 2022 option in his lucrative contract.
Brooks was the only member of the club's dubiously dubbed "Big Four" to remain after James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Aaron Woods moved on in 2017/18.
The No.7 signed his current four-year deal soon after Maguire's arrival in 2018 following a Dally M halfback of the year campaign, but he has failed to hit those heights consistently since.
No stranger to external criticism across his 154 NRL games, Brooks said he does draw on it at times for motivation, but for the most part simply tries to ignore the outside noise.
"Sometimes I think I've got to go out there and prove [the critics] wrong but in saying that I've just got to do my job," he said.
"I can't read into it too much because I can't worry about what other people are saying.
"They've got their opinions and they're allowed to have their opinions.
"I've just got to try and not read too much of the media.
"Sometimes it's hard not to see it nowadays. But I'm alright, I've just got to go out and do my job for the team."