Coach killer: Bennett breaks silence on Lockyer feud

 

Souths coach Wayne Bennett has broken his silence on his fallout with Darren Lockyer, with some private assurances from the Broncos legend clearly playing a role in their fractured friendship.

Bennett and Lockyer had a special bond as player and mentor during Brisbane's golden years, but the pair had a sensational falling out during the Red Hill civil war two years ago that led to the sacking of the super coach.

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Wayne Bennett and Darren Lockyer after Brisbane’s 2006 grand final victory.
Wayne Bennett and Darren Lockyer after Brisbane’s 2006 grand final victory.

 

Bennett and Lockyer won premierships together. Their bond was seemingly unbreakable. But Bennett has not spoken to Lockyer since his departure and privately the 70-year-old has no plans to ever mend bridges with his former skipper.

Lockyer is a Broncos board member and Bennett remains deeply hurt because, in his eyes, the 355-game legend did not fight to save his former coach when Brisbane's executive formulated plans to move him on.

Bennett claims Lockyer was part of the team of heavy hitters who assured him he would be coaching at the Broncos in 2019. He was subsequently sacked, fuelling Bennett's belief Lockyer broke a promise to him.

 

Broncos Chairman Karl Morris and CEO Paul White played a key role in sacking Bennett. Picture:: Glenn Hunt
Broncos Chairman Karl Morris and CEO Paul White played a key role in sacking Bennett. Picture:: Glenn Hunt

 

"I had no doubt in my mind I would be at the Broncos in 2019 because of conversations I had with Darren Lockyer, the CEO Paul White and chairman Karl Morris," Bennett said.

"Those three guys all gave me assurances I would see out my deal in 2019, but I wouldn't be there in 2020.

"That was fine with me. I understood their position on that. In the end, they sacked me."

Lockyer admitted last year the drama affected their relationship. 'Locky' is not the type of person to hold grudges but it is hard to see the pair ever reconciling, which is extremely sad.

RIVAL DROPS OUT

Ben Ikin is firming for the Broncos chief executive's post as another strong candidate, Brisbane Lions boss Greg Swann, prepares to remain in the AFL.

Sports Confidential exclusively revealed last month that Swann had been identified by the Broncos as a possible successor to Paul White, who will depart Red Hill in the coming months after a decade of service.

 

Ben Ikin has one hand on the Broncos CEO job.
Ben Ikin has one hand on the Broncos CEO job.

 

The Broncos officially advertised for the CEO's position in News Corp papers on Wednesday, with a recruitment agency engaged to sift through what is expected to be hundreds of applicants for one of the best jobs in Australian sport.

Broncos chairman Karl Morris has great respect for Swann's achievements in the AFL. The 58-year-old previously worked at Collingwood and Carlton and has helped save the Lions from bankruptcy since his arrival in Brisbane, with the backing of the AFL, five years ago.

Key stakeholders at the Broncos were keen for the club to ramp-up plans to headhunt Swann, but it is understood the respected administrator is close to signing a two-year extension with the Lions.

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With Swann set to be out of the running, Ikin looms as the raging favourite to return to the Broncos club where he won a premiership as a five-eighth in 2000.

While the recruitment agency will play a role in narrowing the field of candidates, News Corp, 69 per cent owners of the Broncos, will no doubt have a major say in who is officially appointed to succeed White.

The potential departure of Ikin from Fox Sports would be a crushing blow for the pay TV giant. Ikin does an outstanding job as host of NRL 360 and is close to irreplaceable at the network with his intellect, analysis and experience as a former player.

HEY BUD

Relax Sydney Swans fans, Buddy Franklin isn't defecting to rugby league any time soon.

Franklin was a high-profile observer at Broncos training in the lead-up to Friday night's Brisbane-Souths clash at ANZ Stadium.

 

A Broncos buddy. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty
A Broncos buddy. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty

 

The Swans star observed strict COVID protocols with Franklin remaining outside the playing enclosure watching on from behind security fences at Brisbane's $27 million training facility.

Franklin is currently in Brisbane as part of the AFL's COVID-enforced relocation to Queensland. The 33-year-old has been sidelined by a hamstring injury and stopped into Red Hill for a fresh scan on his leg at the adjacent QScan facility.

TPJ TIP OF THE ICE BERG

Concerns over the direction of the Broncos under besieged coach Anthony Seibold is a factor in Tevita Pangai Jr's decision to reach out to rival clubs.

The Broncos were rocked by a Sydney media report alleging that Pangai Jr recently contacted Roosters supremo Nick Politis to inquire about the possibility of playing at the Chooks, who expressed interest in him two years ago.

 

Why Tevita Pangai Jr phone call should worry Broncos. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
Why Tevita Pangai Jr phone call should worry Broncos. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

 

Pangai Jr took social media on Wednesday night to set the record straight. He views Roosters billionaire Politis as a mentor and says he merely gave him a lighthearted ribbing about recently selling his shares in the Broncos.

But there is a deeper issue at play. Pangai Jr, like all NRL players, has a desire to win premierships and is concerned he is not getting the type of coaching under Seibold that he got under former Broncos mentor Wayne Bennett.

When Pangai Jr was suspended earlier this season, it was Bennett who gave the Tongan torpedo some valued advice to help him get back to his best.

Pangai Jr insists he doesn't want out of the Broncos but he also craves the best coaching to realise his potential.

LUCKY CROFT

Anthony Milford's hamstring injury came at an opportune time for under fire Broncos recruit Brodie Croft.

Croft missed last week's clash with a shoulder injury but Broncos insiders have recently had concerns over the halfback's emotional wellbeing.

Croft was fit for this week's Souths game and had Milford not broken down at training on Monday, 'Milf' would have partnered Tom Dearden, which would have left the former Storm playmaker on the sidelines.

 

Anthony Milford injured his hammy at training. Picture: Peter Wallis
Anthony Milford injured his hammy at training. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

Brisbane's welfare people have been rallying around Croft, who was shaken-up by the sad passing of his grandfather earlier this year. Croft then shed tears after Brisbane's loss to the Warriors. There was a feeling internally Croft was a man under pressure and needed some time out to get his mojo back.

FIGHT NIGHT

It wouldn't be an Australian boxing event without the presence of NRL stars and some rugby league royalty is expected to attend Jeff Horn's clash with Tim Tszyu on August 26.

Sports Confidential can reveal former Broncos skipper Gorden Tallis and Cowboys champions Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen have been invited as VIPs for the Horn-Tszyu blockbuster at Townsville's Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Tszyu's father, Australian boxing great Kostya, was hoping to be there as well, but the global coronavirus pandemic will force him to watch the bout on live stream. Kostya has lived in Russia for the past 10 years and cannot travel because of COVID. He is currently looking to organise a live-stream of the event with fight promoters.

BAD COACH

Which leading NRL strength-and-conditioning coach is on the nose with his players? The man in question has had two previous warnings from a former employer and is major danger of being sacked if player-power prevails.

DEADLY MAROONS

If he isn't cooking up ways to beat the Blues, Maroons Origin coach Kevin Walters is cooking up ways to help the Queensland people.

With his fifth Origin campaign in November still three months away, Walters has used his spare time to support a cookbook aimed at helping Queenslanders in indigenous communities.

The 'Deadly Maroons', through its Good Quick Tukka Cookbook, will highlight how cooking and eating nutritious foods can set people up towards leading a healthy lifestyle.

A specially-designed Deadly Maroons Good Quick Tukka program shirt will also be made available to school student graduates across Queensland.

 

The Pearl and Kevvie cooking up a storm.
The Pearl and Kevvie cooking up a storm.

 

Walters said it was terrific to be involved in such a rewarding community initiative.

"This experience really does reinforce how important the partnership is between the Queensland Rugby League and Deadly Choices program," Walters said.

"It is never too late to start making healthy choices, and people who do it consistently will reap the rewards.

"I'm fortunate enough to be involved with many great athletes who take great pride in eating nutritious foods and exercising daily.

"Now the challenge is to raise the bar throughout the community. If you're looking for somewhere to start, the Good Quick Tukka Cookbook is ideal."

ON FIRE

Prospective NRL side the Firehawks say they mean "business" and are ready to table a formal submission in the quest to become Brisbane's second team alongside the Broncos.

The Easts Tigers-backed Firehawks released their new logo last week and chief executive Brian Torpy says if the NRL seeks formal submissions later this year, they will be ready to rumble.

"We are now in a position to put together a comprehensive submission," he said.

Asked why the Firehawks should be Brisbane's second team, Torpy added: "I think the fact that we have a proven track record of developing players from grassroots through to international level for over 80 years is important. We are also a membership-based organisation and we exist solely to promote rugby league.

"Secondly, we are centrally located at Coorparoo and intend to play at Suncorp Stadium.

"Suncorp's public transport integration is very good and fans from Greater Brisbane have the ability to travel to the Stadium via the train and bus networks. Also, the Stadium is a short walk from Brisbane's CBD and is supported by a vibrant hospitality precinct, including Caxton Street and Castlemaine Street.

"Finally, we have a sound financial model, our leagues club has a strong balance sheet and is regarded as one of Queensland's premier clubs."

BIRD THE BULLDOG?

Incoming Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett is already eyeing off some new recruits. Barrett is a fan of injured Broncos utility Jack Bird and we also hear Titans strength-and-conditioning coach Dan Ferris is on his radar. Ferris worked with Barrett at Manly and the pair could be reunited at Belmore next season.

 

 

Originally published as Coach killer: Bennett breaks silence on Lockyer feud