Broncos legend and club director Darren Lockyer has admitted that he and other Brisbane officials must start making better decisions for the struggling club.
Lockyer responded to Wide World of Sports after a scathing critique of the club’s roster management from former Broncos star Ben Ikin, made in the wake of a five-game losing streak that has Brisbane running second-last in the NRL.
“The list management at the Brisbane Broncos has been disgusting. Disgusting,” Ikin, Lockyer’s former premiership teammate, said on NRL 360.
Ikin named Broncos football operations boss Peter Nolan, chief executive Paul White, former coach Wayne Bennett and current coach Anthony Seibold as culprits. Lockyer also put up his hand, with the current team badly lacking experience.
“Salary cap management is a big part of having success on the field and the Broncs, probably like a lot of other clubs, there’s a few pressures there in the salary cap. That’s probably going to take a little bit of time to fix up,” Lockyer said on QLDER, with the Broncos beaten by struggling rivals the Gold Coast Titans last weekend.
“It’s something that if you don’t get it right and you’re losing footy games, it gets picked apart. ‘Ikey’s’ entitled to his opinion and it’s up to the people within the Broncos, and that includes myself, to start making some better decisions.”
Yet the immediate onus remains on Seibold to improve a team that, while raw and injury-affected, is incredibly talented. Asked how much time would be granted to Seibold, who is in just the second year of a five-year contract, Lockyer suggested that results needed to improve dramatically this season.
“I said at the start of the year there was no excuses for the Broncos this year,” Lockyer said.
“I felt they should be improving on what they did last year and at the moment, where we sit, that’s not the case. But there’s still 13 rounds to go until the finals.
“From my perspective, if we keep going down this path, well you start to get a little bit worried about the future, but I’m pretty confident within the group of players and the coaching staff that they’ll start to get it right between now and the end of the season.”
Lockyer opens up on Seibold contract
As the NRL’s richest and best-resourced club, with a premiership drought stretching back to 2006, there is enormous pressure on the Broncos. The unrest among fans has been extreme, even leading to death threats towards players.
Lockyer said that under-performance was one thing, but lack of effort from the team was unacceptable. Recent scorelines, including a record 59-0 thrashing from the Roosters, are hard to refute.
“It’s frustrating, there’s no doubt,” Lockyer said.
“I think people can live with a loss if they’ve tried their heart out and I guess that’s what most people are disappointed in at the moment. The losses have been quite severe in terms of the scoreline.
“There’s a lack of confidence, obviously, but I think people get a bit frustrated and annoyed with questioning some effort. We’ve got to be much, much better.”
Sam Thaiday, a 2006 Broncos premiership winner and 300-gamer, said that Brisbane had erred by losing so many experienced players recently.
The recruitment of former Queensland Origin forward Ben Te’o has helped to partly address the team’s inexperience, yet the likes of Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire and Kodi Nikorima have been released, on top of Matt Gillett’s injury-enforced retirement.
Meanwhile, top-earning senior players still with the club, like Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd, have produced pedestrian form that has failed to lead the team.
“We have lost our way a little bit at the moment and I think everyone is searching for answers for that,” Thaiday, who recently challenged Boyd to lift, said on QLDER.
“I think there’s a lot of ex-players at the moment that are saying things and they’re trying to search for reasons why as well.
“We’re definitely lacking a lot of confidence at the moment an a lot of things aren’t going our way. ‘Ikey’ is entitled to say what he wants to say and he gets paid some good money to do that, as well.
“I think that we could have been smarter in keeping a couple of senior players around, to kind of help these young guys come through. Yeah, we’ve got the best of the bunch when it comes to young talent in the NRL, we need to keep them on the field, but we need to give them some guidance as well.”
Thaiday said that the Broncos needed to cement themselves as Queensland’s premier club. Saturday was their third loss in a row to Gold Coast at Suncorp Stadium and came with rising Brisbane superstar David Fifita considering a $5 million offer to defect to the Titans from next season; an offer Brisbane can’t financially match.
The Broncos will also face further erosion of their gigantic junior nursery when the NRL introduces a second Brisbane team. That expansion is pencilled in for 2022 and may create a future where the Broncos aren’t guaranteed finalists every year.
“It will strip a bit of talent and it will make it harder for our recruitment officers to get out and make sure that we’re spotting young talent at an early age, we’re earmarking them and putting some time and effort into those kids so they do want to become Broncos,” said Thaiday, who still holds a job with Brisbane.
“But they won’t want to become Broncos if we’re not a successful team. The Broncos has always been a team that kids want to play for because we have had success. We just need to get back to our ways.”
Lockyer added: “The Broncos can’t control what the NRL does with a second team and we can’t control, if that team gets in, what they do. We can just really focus on trying to be the best version we can be.
“As Sam says, when we grew up, the Broncos were very dominant and we wanted to wear the Broncos jersey. It was a childhood dream, so we want to make sure that that’s still part of kids growing up in Queensland, they want to wear the Broncos jersey.”