Darren Lockyer breaks silence on drama around Ben Ikin and Kevin Walters
The Brisbane legend has addressed reports of a falling out between the former teammates.
Broncos great and current board member Darren Lockyer has set the record straight after reports of an 'ugly split' between former Brisbane official Ben Ikin and coach Kevin Walters. Brisbane's former head of football operations was this week unveiled as the new CEO of Queensland Rugby League, just one day after officially departing the Broncos.
Even before Ikin left the NRL ladder-leaders, Walters moved to squash reports that a falling out between the pair was behind the eventual move. Those reports came after Ikin - who played for the Broncos from 2000 to 2004 and won a premiership alongside Walters - took up his position at the club in late 2021 but saw his job title and role diminish in recent months.
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The newly appointed QRL chief executive 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.
It came after club bosses at Brisbane reportedly had to provide mediation between Ikin and Walters last year after a differing of opinions between the former teammates. However, Walters refuted suggestions that a rift between he and Ikin pushed the latter away from the club.
League 'Immortal' and Queensland great Wally Lewis told Wide World of Sports that he saw no signs of a rift between Ikin and Walters during his frequent visits to Broncos training. Lockyer also reiterated those remarks from Lewis and put Ikin's exit down to an amazing opportunity that opened up at the QRL and the chance to tackle a fresh challenge.
"Both men are there for the same purpose, to make the Broncos the best they can be," Lockyer told Wide World of Sports. "They're there to serve the Broncos and do what's in the best interests of the club. They were very professional about all that so it's not an ugly split at all."
Ben Ikin leaves with Broncos in strong position
Lockyer said Brisbane's priority now was to identity a replacement to fill Ikin's role as head of football operations. He maintained that the club was in a strong position to be able to cope without someone in the role for the short-term, with officials such as Broncos head of recruitment Simon Scanlan likely to take on added responsibilities.
Ikin helped turn Brisbane's fortunes around after a disastrous 2020 that culminated in a first wooden spoon for the NRL club. He was appointed midway through the 2021 season and helped bring stability to the Broncos, who sat in the top-four last season before a late collapse saw them miss out on finals footy.
The 46-year's old exit comes with Brisbane sitting at the top of the ladder and deemed genuine premiership contenders after a superb start to the season. Ikin says it's an "honour" to take over at the QRL, with his tenure set to get underway on May 22 - the same day the Maroons' squad is announced for the State of Origin opener in Adelaide on May 31.
“It’s a great honour to be given this role,” Ikin said. “The QRL has a very long, proud history and is responsible for a very important part of rugby league across the state.
“I look forward to working with our staff and stakeholders to ensure that the way we do things in Queensland is both preserved and respected.”
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