Kevin Walters responds to fresh Ben Ikin fallout amid rift reports
The former Brisbane Broncos teammates were reportedly at the centre of a rift at the NRL club.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters has moved to squash reports that Ben Ikin's imminent departure from the NRL ladder-leaders is due to a falling out between the pair. Ikin is reportedly on the cusp of leaving the Broncos, following months of speculation about a rift between he and Walters.
It's understood Brisbane's head of football operations is one of the frontrunners for the vacant CEO role at Queensland Rugby League, having interviewed for the job on Wednesday. Ikin - who played for the Broncos from 2000 to 2004 - took up his position at the club in late 2021 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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Club bosses at Brisbane reportedly had to provide mediation between Ikin and Walters last year after a differing of opinions between the former teammates, who won the NRL premiership together with Brisbane in 2000. However, Walters refutes suggestions that a rift between he and Ikin is the reason why the former NRL 360 host is potentially leaving.
“ We’re working together every day,” Walters said on Triple M. “ The media have a role to play in our game, to create headlines. That’s OK , that’s all part of the bubble of rugby league.
“Ben is a great fella, he’s been working with us at the Broncos . We haven’t had an in-depth conversation about what’s happening at the QRL, I believe he was having an interview... so that’s good for Ben. He will go - if he does go - with our blessing.”
Ikin was initially brought on as the Broncos' head of football but a change in his role meant Walters no longer reported to both the former NRL star and Brisbane's CEO. Ikin was instead made responsible for the more logistical concerns of the club, rather than the decision-making regarding the team itself.
Ben Ikin had his 'power diluted' at Brisbane
Rugby league great Laurie Daley said he remained unconvinced the pair had settled their differences and insisted that Ikin's role at the club had been 'diluted'. “Ben’s role has changed since he went up there with the Broncos,” Daley told Sky Sports Radio.
“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."
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.
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. 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.
Brisbane has been the standout team across the first nine weeks of the season, however, with Walters' men currently sitting on top of the ladder, two points clear of the Sharks, Rabbitohs, Storm and Roosters. The Broncos next face Manly on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium, in the second game of Magic Round.
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