Broncos fear mass exodus if culture crisis worsens
Brisbane bosses have revealed they must provide a strong club culture or risk losing other boom Broncos talents in the wake of David Fifita's controversial defection to the Titans.
Brisbane board member and the club's most-capped player, 355-game icon Darren Lockyer, says it is the Broncos' responsibility to provide an environment that maximises player development at the NRL's richest club.
The famous Broncos brand has come under the microscope this season with founding father Barry Maranta claiming the club's culture is "broken" amid their slide to 15th place under besieged coach Anthony Seibold.
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There was a time when the notion of a superstar like Fifita quitting the Broncos to join the cash-strapped Titans seemed unfathomable, but the reality of his departure has shone a forensic torch on Brisbane's operations.
Fifita is close to several emerging Broncos including Payne Haas and Tesi Niu, who posted a cryptic social media message on Monday suggesting he could also quit, saying: "I will follow you my brother sooner or later".
Niu signed a one-year deal with Brisbane a fortnight ago on the understanding Fifita would remain loyal and Lockyer says the onus is on the Broncos to give the club's young guns a reason to stay.
"Our coach (Seibold) talks about the long game and the long game is to keep the youth coming through for as long as we can," Lockyer said.
"It's up to the club to provide that environment where they are improving as individuals and enjoying the culture.
"If the culture is good, everyone starts enjoying being a part of the set-up.
"While we want to retain our youth, we have to make sure we provide the best possible environment for players."
Amid Fifita's decision, the Broncos have been buffeted by speculation the club is looking to offload misfiring pivot Anthony Milford, the highest-paid player in Brisbane's history on a $1 million deal.
In May, Milford took up a 12-month option in his favour for the 2021 season, but he has failed to consistently deliver on the big-money contract he signed with the Broncos in 2017.
Seibold, however, dismissed suggestions he is looking to sever ties with the former Queensland Origin utility.
"I have never had any discussions in and around that space so I am not sure where that has come from," he said.
"'Milf' has taken up his option for next year and for me that was the end of it. There have been no discussions from myself or anyone internally that I have been a part of in and around that space. It hasn't come from me.
"As far as getting the best out of Milf, he is a player with immense potential and I always feel as though he is unfairly criticised at times.
"I suppose that comes from being a marquee player at our club. I understand where that scrutiny comes from, but I enjoy working with Milly."
The Broncos could have more than $2 million to spend on their salary cap next year and Lockyer said the recruitment-and-retention committee must make shrewd decisions with the composition of their roster.
"With Dave going it gives us some salary-cap relief," he said.
"This gives us options but I guess we have to be prudent with making the right decision if we are to bring someone into the roster, we must make sure it fits with what we need both from a talent and attitude perspective."
Originally published as Broncos fear mass exodus if culture crisis worsens