The Brisbane Broncos' miserable end to the NRL season has only gotten worse as the reason behind tension between coach Kevin Walters and head of football Ben Ikin was publicly brought to light.
In a heated discussion on Fox program NRL 360, it was revealed Walters had kept Ikin at arm's length from a number of key decisions throughout the season, and that the feud could be traced back to the latter's hiring without the knowledge of the coach.
'SADDEST STORY': Mario Fenech news leaves NRL world devastated
The messy situation prompted Broncos legend Gorden Tallis to publicly back Walters, saying Ikin's role was to be no more than 'lackey' for the coach.
Discussing the situation on Monday night, veteran NRL journalists Phil Rothfield and James Hooper sparred over the situation.
Rothfield, who worked on the NRL 360 desk alongside Ikin for some time, said Tallis had gone too far in his criticism and said it would be in Walters' best interest to find a way to work harmoniously.
Disagreement was in the air though as Hooper said Tallis was justified in defending his 'mate' in Walters, and suggested not doing so would have been tantamount to 'throwing him under the bus'.
Rothfield though, maintained that all involved needed to take a broader view of what was in the best interests of the Broncos.
"What you’ve got to do James, when you work in the media you’ve got to have a wider view outside your mates," he said.
"You’ve got to look at what’s wrong with the Broncos and tell it as it is and whether Kevvie or Ben is in the wrong… you always look after your mates but you can’t let friendship cloud your opinion on things.
"That’s what I’m trying to say and I thought (Tallis') spray was too heavy, calling Ben Ikin a lackey."
"I think the reason behind the friction behind Kevy & Ikin ... is because they've not been clearly informed what the other's job is by the CEO"
📺Watch #NRL360 on @Foxtel CH 502 or stream on @kayosports: https://t.co/lvAOdLMBjw pic.twitter.com/rkua6GJkIm
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) September 19, 2022
The Broncos made some off-field changes in the wake of their late-season fadeout from fourth to ninth in the final six rounds, with offensive coach Terry Matterson sacked last week.
Matterson, who won premierships with the Broncos in 1992 and 1993, was the side's attack coach and paid the price for the NRL club's late-season fadeout from fourth to ninth in the final six weeks.
In addition, Steve Walters, the club's football administration manager, has resigned from his role because of personal and business reasons.
Broncos swing the axe after disastrous NRL collapse
Walters told AAP the arrival of former Warrington playmaker and current Wigan assistant coach Lee Briers next year would boost the attacking craft of his young playmakers.
Kevin Walters said his brother and Matterson had "worked tirelessly in their roles over recent years" and thanked them for their significant contribution to the Broncos.
He said Matterson had brought "a wealth of experience and knowledge to his role" and paid tribute to Steve's work as a football manager over the past 20 years with Australia, Queensland and the Broncos.
Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy said the club's end-of-season review was now complete and while the club was disappointed with the last month of the season they still had made "great strides and our goal is to continue on that path in 2023".
Kevin Walters, current Broncos assistant coach Allan Langer and former Wales international Briers played together at Warrington in the Super League in 2001.
In 425 games for the Warrington Wolves in a career spanning 15 years, Briers scored a club-record 2584 points and won three Challenge Cups.
On retiring the former half joined the Wolves coaching staff where he progressed to assistant coach, before joining Wigan as assistant to Matt Peet this season, helping guide them to second on the Super League ladder after a disappointing 2021.
Walters' stint at Warrington was short but Langer and Briers were halves partners for two seasons.
Briers, 44, will be a development coach at Brisbane and assist the club's emerging halves and spine members.
Broncos captain Adam Reynolds has a masterful kicking game but could do with some assistance around him.
That is where Walters said the skillset of Briers comes in and he can help fine-tune the skills of Ezra Mam, Tesi Niu, Cory Paix and recruits Reece Walsh and Jock Madden.
"Lee will be good for their attacking skills and everything from their short kicking, long kicking, passing and running game. He had all the bases covered as a player and he will as a coach," Walters told AAP.
"We have Adam here as a good mentor but Lee will bring a fresh set of eyes, ears and ideas into the place from outside and has a really strong coaching background from academy teams right through to assistant coaching in the Super League.
"He was a very smart player for Warrington with good skills. He had it all, from his goal kicking and kicking game to his general play."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.