Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor has poo-pooed talk of Benji Marshall making an emotional return to the club as he digs in to retain NRL young guns Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.
With Marshall’s negotiations with St George Illawarra at a standstill, it’s been speculated the Tigers’ 2005 grand final hero could finish his career back at the joint venture after an acrimonious departure in 2013.
“It’s fairly unlikely that one,” Taylor said on Friday, ahead of Brooks’ return from suspension for the Tigers’ showdown on Monday night with Manly at Leichhardt Oval.
Taylor is more intent on keeping exciting halves Moses and Brooks at the Tigers than trying to entice prodigal son Marshall back.
Moses and Brooks, both 21, are two of the hottest talents off contract at season’s end, but the Tiger cubs and long-time friends and teammates accept salary-cap constraints may make it difficult extending their partnership in 2017.
Taylor insists any contract negotiations won’t be a distraction for the Tigers, who made a flying start to the season with a big win over the more-fancied Warriors in round one last weekend.
“It’s just part of the game these days. We aren’t the only club that’s got key players who are off contract,” the coach said.
“It’s just a matter of managing it. The players are positive. They’re enjoying what they’re doing and everything that’s happening around here is positive so that can only help the guys want to stay and that’s what we’re working towards.
“Both of those guys we would love to stay and that’s a genuine possibility so we’ll see where we get to down the track.
“We’ll work hard to put a good team around them and we’ve talked to them about the future here and what we’re building towards.
“I think they can see it. It’s really clear to all of us that the club’s heading in a great direction.
“I’m sure they’ll want to be part of that and there’s no reason why they won’t be.”
Brooks is said to be in the sights of influential Canterbury coach Des Hasler, but insists his immediate focus is on his long-awaited comeback from a suspension carried over from 2015.
“I’m not really thinking about the contract too much. I just want to get out there on Monday and play my first game (of 2016),” he said on Friday.
“It’s all up in the air. I just want to concentrate on footy. Obviously I missed last week and I’m keen to get back onto the field.”
But the halfback did admit it would be a wrench breaking up his union with Moses.
“I don’t know what will happen, but I’ve played with Mitch my whole life so it would be hard to not play with him,” Brooks said.
“But I guess that’s footy.”