‘Bennett has manipulated this perfectly’: power moves behind contract talk
BEN Ikin can see Wayne Bennett's fingerprints all over the widespread media coverage of the contract negotiations of some of his star players.
Tevita Pangai Junior and Corey Oates have attracted plenty of column inches in recent weeks, with the pair off contract at season's end.
And while it's to be expected that a host of rival clubs would be vying for their signatures, Ikin believes the super coach has been manipulating the narrative to create a "siege mentality" within the playing group at the pointy-end of the year.
"The contract negotiations have been in the press for some time, but I've got this sense that Wayne Bennett has almost manipulated this perfectly, like many other things so that the Broncos have almost got this siege mentality," Ikin told Fox Sports.
"'We want to keep these players, I want to keep coaching here, we're all in this together', right around the time that September comes.
"He is the master at this time of year. Whatever has made its way into the press, whether it's contracts for players or even his own personal future, he will use it, he will craft it, he will manipulate it to make sure his players are in the right head space to make a real solid premiership push.
"It's no coincidence that the Broncos have played their best football over the past three weeks."
And while Brisbane would ideally like to retain both Pangai Junior and Oates, Ikin says in the big scheme of things the Red Hill club has the luxury of not having to chase anyone.
"The truth is, the Broncos are a junior rugby league talent factory. Their elite junior development system is run by a guy called Simon Scanlan, who is pretty much the best in the business," Ikin said.
"For many years now they have recruited the best young talent, they bring them in, they develop them and they retain most of the players that they want.
"When you look at the Broncos depth charts, you take a peek behind the curtains, they've got the best young talent around the country knocking at the door to play first-grade.
"So if Tevita Pangai Junior goes, and this is no slur on Pangai Junior, he's going to do great things wherever he ends up, there's every chance the Broncos have got someone similar, who plays the same way in the same position, ready to come through."
Ikin expects both men to negotiate very healthy contracts, wherever they end up.
"Tevita Pangai Junior, I think was labelled earlier this year as potentially the most damaging forward in the game by a fella called Jason Taumalolo," Ikin said with a laugh.
"And there are reports today that he's fielded offers to the tune of $3.2 million over four years. So you're talking $800,000 a year for a guy who hasn't been in the NRL all that long.
"As for Corey Oates, his managers need to come up with a plan on how to pitch him to market because he brings more than just your stock-standard winger.
"This is a guy who, even if you play him on the flank, can deliver what some of the best forwards across the game can. So he's got this great balance, pay him the $700,000, pay him the $800,000, and you get a champion winger but also a guy that can double as a form back-rower.