Ben Ikin is reportedly on the cusp of leaving the Brisbane Broncos, following months of NRL speculation about a rift between himself and head coach Kevin Walters. Ikin is reportedly in the running for the vacant chief executive position with Queensland Rugby League, and is said to have interviewed for the job this week.
Ikin, who played for the Broncos from 2000 to 2004, joined the club late in 2021 as head of football, but has reportedly seen his role diminish in recent months. He stepped down from his position on the club's recruitment and retention committee back in March.
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Though he was initially brought on as the head of football, Ikin's role at the Broncos has since changed to head of football operations. This has meant that instead of having Walters report to both himself and the club CEO, Ikin instead was responsible for the more logistical concerns of the club, rather than the decision-making regarding the team itself.
That move was widely interpreted as one which reduced Ikin's influence on the club, and came on the back of reported tension between himself and Walters. The latter attempted to clear the air on the issue earlier in 2023, admitting that although there had been some problems, there were no bigger picture issues between himself and Ikin.
“Ben is new to the club, he came in at the back end of last year and we are working well together. Can things be better with him? Yes, everything in the club can be better," Walters said earlier this year.
“I need to be better myself and Ben needs to be better. I don’t have a major issue with him. I’m very clear on what needs to happen and I’m very clear on wanting to take the club forward.”
However rugby league great Laurie Daley wasn't convinced the issues between the pair had ever been fully resolved. Speaking about Ikin's potential departure on Sky Sports Radio, Daley said there was no doubt Ikin's role at the club had been 'diluted'.
Real shame. There seemed to be an immediate turn around with the roster when he came in. They let go of the right players to free up cap space to bring in some great influences on the team and they retained and developed some very bright youngsters. Hope it works out for both
— Brian de Groot (@BriandeGroot7) May 3, 2023
Think Ikin has done a part & good job in getting us off the bottom of the table. His influence in bringing Walsh home is a big tick from me. Hope he stays on.
— BB88 (@Thoroughbredmen) May 3, 2023
That’d be a great hire by the QRL.
— Stuart Bird (@bird_slb) May 2, 2023
Ben knows Kevin isn’t an NRL coach. The elephant in the room is Kevin. The broncos would be clever to keep Ben.
— Royal Mint Records (@RoyalMintRecord) May 2, 2023
Fingers crossed he doesn’t go. He’s one of the reasons for the turn around.
— Poitty (@Poitty1) May 2, 2023
Daley backed Ikin to do a good job for QRL, particularly with the State of Origin series on the horizon. “Ben’s role has changed since he went up there with the Broncos,” Daley said.
“As a head of football, you’re in charge of the footy department. I think Benny has had his power diluted. And he’s now just like a footy manager, which is just organising the team. Basically looking after travel. Looking after accommodation. Looking after training.
"Looking after certain aspects of what the first grade team needs, rather than sitting over the coach and having the coach reporting to the footy manager and then having the footy manager reporting to the CEO. Kevvy now reports to the CEO rather than the footy manager. I know they (Walters and Ikin) were offside with each other and I don’t know if Ben is happy with that scenario or not, but now he’s obviously looking for another position.
“He’s very intelligent, Ben. Everyone speaks very highly of him and if he went for this job. I’m pretty confident he’d be able to get it and he’d do a fantastic job."
Ben Ikin poised to leave Brisbane Broncos
The 46-year-old Ikin, who played 150 first grade games and 17 State of Origin matches for Queensland, reportedly informed Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy of his decision to stand down from the recruitment and retention committee before the 2023 season. The other members of the panel are Club CEO Dave Donaghy, coach Kevin Walters, salary-cap manager Louise Lanigan, academy chief Simon Scanlan and board member Darren Lockyer.
In his role as head of football operations, Ikin reports to Walters, who in turn reports to Donaghy.
The Broncos endured a miserable end to their 2022 season, made worse after it was reported that 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 Ikin's hiring without the knowledge of the coach.
A major furore was sparked among NRL commentators late last year, when former Bronco Gorden Tallis labelled Ikin a 'lackey' for Walters. Phil 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 with Ikin.
The Broncos faded from fourth on the ladder to ninth in the final six rounds of last season, missing out on a finals appearance. The collapse cost offensive coach Terry Matterson his job.
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