Ex-Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is the perfect candidate to reignite the stalled career of Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks, according to former Panthers playmaker Jamie Soward.
Cleary remains the frontrunner to take the reins at Concord as the club weighs up its options over who replaces axed coach Jason Taylor.
And Soward believes the joint-venture would be wise to move quickly on Cleary, who breathed new life into the premiership winner’s career at the foot of the mountains three years ago.
“Outside of winning the comp, 2014 was my best year,” Soward told AAP.
“Especially coming back in the NRL, there was a lot of pressure on me to see whether I still had it. I had signed a four-year deal, had time off and didn’t finish how I wanted to at the Dragons.
“But Ivan was really patient, knew I had to work hard.”
Soward believes his old mentor can do the same with Brooks, who has been heavily criticised for failing to soar to the heights expected of him following his rookie season in 2013.
Brooks is one of over a dozen players off-contract at the end of the year, but is understood to be deep in negotiations on re-signing with the club on a long-term deal.
“Luke’s a talented player. I think at the moment sometimes he’s trying a little bit too hard and the raps, being like Joey (Andrew Johns) and all this early on didn’t help him,” Soward said.
“I think Ivan will be able to get the best out of him.”
The part-time Triple M commentator said Cleary’s best strength was managing the differing personalities among the playing group.
It’s a trait he believes is shared amongst the game’s most successful coaches.
“The best thing about Ivan is he understands his players. I’ve spoken about it before with Wayne (Bennett),” Soward said.
“The coaches that have been in the game the longest and have had a lot of success are the coaches who understand their cattle. Sometimes you’re going to have to be patient.
“It’s not just about x’s and o’s anymore. The best coaches aren’t really the x’s and o’s guys, they’re the guys that know how to manage the egos, man management.
“I just think Ivan has that uncanny knack of getting the best out of his players. He’s definitely the man for that job.”
Soward backed Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe, who was also boss at Penrith during Cleary’s reign, to make the right decision on who gets the coaching gig.
“I walked Kokoda with Justin Pascoe. He’s a very astute businessman and he’s going to have that ship right in the next couple of years,” he said.