Wayne Bennett with Kevin Walters and Darren Lockyer at Red Hill in 2001. Picture: David Kapernick
Wayne Bennett with Kevin Walters and Darren Lockyer at Red Hill in 2001. Picture: David Kapernick

Locky’s emotional Bennett, Walters admission

Broncos legend Darren Lockyer has made the explosive admission the sacking of Wayne Bennett has strained relations with the master coach and his former Brisbane captain Kevin Walters.

Speaking exclusively at The Courier-Mail's official NRL launch, Lockyer revealed the friendship of three of Brisbane's most iconic figures has been a casualty of Bennett's bitter exit from the Broncos last season.

Lockyer was at the epicentre of the most controversial sacking in Broncos history as a member of the Brisbane board which agreed to terminate Bennett - the super coach who delivered all six titles to the club.

The former Broncos skipper was also part of the three-man sub-committee which chose Anthony Seibold as Bennett's successor, snubbing fellow candidate Walters in the process.

Walters and Lockyer won three premierships together and the Queensland Origin coach is understood to be filthy at his former Broncos teammate for not backing him during the job interview process.

Lockyer and Bennett remain the last captain-coach combination to win a premiership at the Broncos in 2006, but Brisbane's most-capped player opened up about the saga for the first time today.

Asked if Bennett's sacking and Walters' snubbing had left some collateral damage, Lockyer was unequivocal.

"Yes, 100 per cent," he said.

"There is strained relationships with both individuals.

"Wayne was my coach for 14 years and I will never forget what he did for me, he turned me into the person that I am today, so I will always be grateful for that.

"With Kevvie ... we shared a lot of success on the field and we had a lot of good times off the field.

 

Darren Lockyer (L) and Wayne Bennett developed one of the greatest partnerships in rugby league. Picture: Patrick Hamilton
Darren Lockyer (L) and Wayne Bennett developed one of the greatest partnerships in rugby league. Picture: Patrick Hamilton

 

"Both those guys are disappointed with the result that's happened at the Broncos, but I was sitting in a position where my consideration was what is best for the club.

"Obviously I'm not the one individual that made the call (to sack Bennett and hire Seibold) but I'm totally comfortable with the decisions that were made because it was made in the best interests of the club."

Bennett has long held great affinity for 355-game luminary Lockyer, handing the Roma product his first-grade debut in 1995 when he was just 18 years old.

Lockyer said he attempted to reach out to Bennett on January 1 this year when he sent him best wishes for his birthday, but claims the 69-year-old's response was not warm.

"We are not on great speaking terms," Lockyer said.

Kevin Walters and Darren Lockyer enjoyed plenty of success together.
Kevin Walters and Darren Lockyer enjoyed plenty of success together.

"But I wouldn't expect us to be on great speaking terms with the way it all unfolded.

"We haven't spoken for a while. I texted him for his birthday. He is born on the first of January. Every year I text him for his birthday, but his response wasn't the best one I've had over the years.

"It has been tough. From the outset I envisaged there would be some strained relationships through it. It was highly emotional. It was played out in the media and was quite a circus there for a while.

"It is done now and we all have to move on."

Bennett refused to comment when contacted by The Courier-Mail. But Lockyer hopes he can smoke the peace-pipe with Walters and Bennett.

"Over time I am sure we will cross paths and we will mend bridges," he said.

"There's been limited conversation. It will come back over time. I know Wayne well enough."