The Brisbane Broncos' year from hell in 2020 has continued into 2021, with more turmoil engulfing the club before the new campaign is even underway.
Brisbane would have been hoping the arrival of coach Kevin Walters would bring about a change of fortunes for the Broncos after the first wooden spoon in the club's history in 2020.
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Those hopes have already been dealt a number of blows, with Payne Haas slapped with a $50,000 fine and a three-game ban after pleading guilty to charges of intimidating police and offensive language during a Tweed Heads incident in January.
Now the Broncos are embroiled in another controversy, with reports assistant coach John Cartwright and and chairman of the Broncos Old Boys club, Chris Johns, were involved in a scuffle at a Brisbane pub.
Johns told The Courier Mail he got into a "bit of a wrestle" with Cartwright at the Caxton Hotel after an argument about their old teams turned heated.
It's understood the argument centred around the achievements of the Broncos compared to the Penrith Panthers, who Cartwright used to play for.
“I said (to Cartwright), ‘At the Panthers you have won one comp, don’t compare the Broncos (who have won six premierships) with the Panthers’.
“Carty got the s***s and said, ‘Don’t start bagging my old club’.
“We’re the best of mates. We always have been. It was at the break-up of the coaching staff (before Christmas) and they had asked me if I wanted to have a beer.
“If you were watching it you would have said, ‘What are these blokes doing?’”
Broncos coach Kevin Walters said he had no knowledge of the incident until he was told, but insisted he wouldn't be following it up with Cartwright.
Walters told the Courier Mail: “’Johnsy’ was at training the other day having a burger, so there’s no problem ... I don’t think too much happened.”
Broncos thumped in pre-season clash
Perhaps of more pressing concern for Walters will be fine-tuning side's defence, after his side were given a hiding by the North Queensland Cowboys in their final pre-season trial over the weekend.
The woes of the Broncos defence were put in the spotlight again, after they gave up 28 unanswered points in their 34-18 defeat on Saturday.
Brisbane were last in tries conceded in 2020 at 5.46 per game and copped a whopping 624 points against them in 20 games.
But Walters remains positive with his players, saying this was a chance to see where they are before the season starts on March 11.
"We all got something out of it, we had to start somewhere and I said yesterday we've got to draw a line in the sand to find out where we are - so we found out where we are," Walters said.
"That first 40 minutes, the way we controlled the game and our defence was especially very good."
"It was a terrific first 40 and a not-so-good second 40. Plenty to work on but I'm walking away tonight confident that the Broncos are going to have a good season."
The Broncos were the more polished side in the opening stanza of Friday's pre-season trial against the Cowboys in Redcliffe and Walters sees it as something to build off.
"We got through our sets and our goal-line defence in the first half was very good. We've got to build on that as a club and we'll do that.
"We've got some time now to sort that out and get into round one with some confidence.
"We didn't have a bad player in the first half ... we've just got to get that 40 minutes to 80 minutes and we will be a very good side."
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