Several of Lockyer’s former teammates, with whom he dug a very deep well of success in the 1990s and beyond, are doing plenty of sniping after Lockyer and his board signed rookie coach Anthony Seibold — and not Kevin Walters, another former teammate — to replace Bennett this season.
Some say Walters was promised the job when Bennett left the building. Lockyer has denied he ever gave such assurances, although it’s possible others might have. Some claim that Walters promised a few jobs to some former teammates if he ever got the Broncos job so it’s little wonder they are angry he didn’t get it.
Regardless, the decision to overlook Walters for Seibold has caused significant fractures at a club that should be building dynasties like they’re the New England Patriots instead of bickering like they’re, well, Parramatta.
Following Thursday night’s heavy loss to the Roosters, The Courier-Mail went into a DEFCON-3 panic about the one-and-three start to the season. Broncos and Maroons legends were hunted down and they called the performance “unacceptable”, “abysmal” and “disgraceful” along with other adjectives.
On Sunday on Triple M, former Broncos hardman Gorden Tallis went to DEFCON-1.
“They have a $27 million facility and they all sit there drinking coffees and then they walk around the town like they own the place,” Tallis said of the current bunch of players. “They own nothing. They’ve won nothing … that’s not the club I played for. There were winners there.”
He’s right. Some of the current Broncos appear to be the entitled rich kids in the playground who have the most expensive toys but don’t know how to use them.
They appear to be the old Parramatta, the Western Sydney powerhouse with the cashed-up leagues club and the deep pool of local juniors but losing matches on the field while a stack of ex-players lob hand grenades from outside the fence.
How do the Broncos, a publicly owned club that turns over more than $50 million a year, that has the backing of media giant News Corp, that counts Lachlan Murdoch as its No.1 fan boy, that has almost every young footballer in Queensland wanting to play for the them before their own country, that tosses around third-party agreements like confetti, achieve so little?
Since 2006, the Broncos have made one grand final (in 2015) and finished in the top four only three times (in 2011, 2015 and 2017).
In 2008, there was a belief internally that something had to change because six premierships (if you include the 1997 Super League title) weren’t enough for a club of such strength. Bennett was edged out … and two years later won a comp with the Dragons.
In 2011, when he was trying to rebuild Penrith, Phil Gould visited the Broncos to see how the game’s most profitable and powerful club did business.
Of everything he saw over those few days, what astounded him the most was something as simple as the club’s pre-match function. The Panthers could draw and cater for no more than 300 or so people on game-day. The Broncos, back then, were drawing 3000 and for 20 times the price.
As it stands today, the Broncos have the most members of any club, about 32,000. They have the second highest number of third-party agreements, behind only to Melbourne. Last season, they had the highest home attendances of any other club with an average of 31,000. The closest was Newcastle with 19,000.
You wonder how they can be in the same competition in comparison to Sydney clubs battling to pay the bills, that train and play out of crumbling suburban grounds that have very little corporate facilities.
What it does expose is that it doesn’t matter how many centres of excellence you have, they mean nothing if you don’t have the right people in them.
You sense Broncos management know this. The audacious but failed bid last year to sign Craig Bellamy shows how fed up they are about making money but winning nothing.
Is Seibold the answer instead of Bennett and Walters?
Some are already saying no after just four rounds into a five-year deal. Slightly premature, although he has some tough calls to make. Captain Darius Boyd certainly isn’t putting his body on the line for Seibold quite like he did for father-figure Bennett.
Tallis believes leading player manager Isaac Moses has too much influence at the club because he has “18 players” on the Broncos’ books. This column has been told it’s closer to 11 but the gist of what he’s saying is that Moses has too much control because he also manages Seibold.
“I’m on the retention and recruitment committee,” Lockyer said. “We sign players based on talent, not who their manager is.”
Lockyer wasn’t aware of Tallis’ spray when I contacted him yesterday. And he was quite calm about the talk about the breaking news that his club was in apparent crisis.
Maybe it’s because the Broncos, ever since they joined the comp in 1988, are constantly under pressure.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.