Off the Wall

For the better part of two decades the Brisbane Broncos have been regarded as the "pacesetter" or the "benchmark" in the premiership.

The club has won more premiership than anyone else, made every finals series except one, was the backbone of the Queensland Origin team for years, has led the way in securing sponsorships, and enjoys average home game attendances close to double those of any other club.

It can be reasonably argued that the Broncos should be in that position - the only team in a city of more than a million, majority owned by News Limited, and a massive junior player base.

Well whatever one's views, it is surely beyond dispute that the halo slipped a good deal last night.

The manner in which the Broncos handled the sacking of coach Ivan Henjak could hardly have been worse. And for a club that is majority owned by News Limited, the manner in which it tried to shut down, or at the very least control, debate on his dismissal is highly questionable.

The Broncos signed Henjak to a confidentiality agreement and declared the discussions it held with him, and the reasons for his dismissal would "never" be made public!

Well that lasted all of about six hours...for when the News Limited's "Courier Mail" rolled off the presses at midnight, four full pages was devoted to the story headed "Why Ivan Had To Go".

When you read the story, or stories, you have to ask one simple question - if he was that hopeless then how come he was not sacked months ago?

The performance of the new Broncos CEO, Paul White, in front of the media yesterday reminded me of the bumbling performances from David Moffet (remember him?) when he was CEO of the NRL.

The coach of the Broncos is a high profile position. The Broncos have a huge fan base, apart from the 12,000 or more paid up members. The club gets massive media coverage in Brisbane - which helps puts backsides in seats, dollars in the bank, and makes the Broncos very attractive for sponsors.

That is why signing a confidentiality agreement was a poor tactic that the Broncos should not have indulged in.

Ivan Henjak should today be demanding that the Broncos release him from it - so he can tell his side of the story.

If the Courier Mail story is even remotely accurate - and it jells with what I have been hearing for some months - then the specific denial by the CEO that a player revolt was behind the dismissal is just not true, or a play on words.

For the benefit of interstate readers, the Courier Mail, on page one, and without any qualification, gave these reasons for his sacking - a scathing in house report, disgruntled players, and a prickly personality.

The article, and other items in the same newspaper, goes on to suggest poor relations with the media, a major falling out with Darren Lockyer, inability to attract star recruits, and he was not sensitive in coaching Generation Y players!

And on and on the reasons go...

When taken together, they surely raise one question - if he was that bad, why wasn't he shown the door at the end of the last season, or even earlier?

And if he was that bad, why did the new CEO give him a ringing and unqualified endorsement just months ago?

Sacking a coach of a high profile team just two weeks out from the start of a season was always going to make the headlines.

If the board of management of the Broncos thought that hog tying Henjak to a confidentiality agreement would minimise the fall out for them they will be, and deserve to be, sadly mistaken.

Given that a newspaper owned by the Broncos majority owner has detailed the reasons, the club has a duty to its fans to end the secrecy nonsense, be more upfront with its fans, and give Ivan Henjak the right to respond to the case against him!

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