New Brisbane Broncos boss Ben Ikin has fired a shot at his estranged father-in-law. super coach Wayne Bennett, declaring he will ‘fix’ the struggling NRL team.
Bennett, 71, coached Brisbane until he was ousted to South Sydney in 2018 amid a bitter dispute with team officials – despite winning six premierships during his reign.
Fans hoped he would ‘romantically’ return to Brisbane in 2022 to end the team’s 15-year steak without a winning title, but last week Ikin accepted the vacant head of football job offered by the team’s chief executive Dave Donaghy.
Ikin will step aside as co-host of NRL 360 on Fox Sports to take up the position and, on Sunday, the 44-year-old said he plans to reverse the team’s fortunes by repairing the roster.
Ben Ikin (pictured) played 55 games with the Broncos, and represented the Maroons in 17 State of Origin games
Bennet shacked up with his secretary Dale Cage (pictured together) when he was coaching at Newcastle in 2016
‘I felt the roster didn’t have enough game awareness to get the best out of the young guys who were super talented but just learning how to play,’ he told The Courier-Mail on Sunday.
‘We have to build a balance of capability in our roster… strike, endurance, youth, leadership, game awareness, enforcers, grinders. Positional depth is important, but it’s not everything.’
However, Ikin acknowledged Bennett was an ‘integral’ part of the club and there would always be a place for him.
‘There is no doubt that when the time is right, the club and Wayne will find a way to reconnect because he is the foundation coach,’ he said.
‘I don’t know what that looks like, that’s not my role, but he has been such a huge part of this club’s history, I believe a relationship will exist in some form into the future.’
Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin (pictured) has taken on a new role as head of football at the Brisbane Broncos
Don’t expect to see NRL supercoach Wayne Bennett (right) involved with the Broncos due to an ongoing feud with Ben Ikin – his son-in-law
The commentator married Bennett’s daughter Elizabeth in 2003 but dramatically fell out with the NRL coach when he walked out on his wife of 42 years, Trish, to start a relationship with a woman 16 years his junior.
After shacking up with secretary Dale Cage when he was coaching at Newcastle in 2016, Bennett also left his former life partner to care full time for their two adult disabled children, Katherine and Justin by herself.
The tension between the two rugby league identities again bubbled to the surface when Bennett was fined over a Covid breach last year.
He breached the NRL’s strict Covid-19 biosecurity protocols by having lunch with Ms Cage at popular Italian restaurant Grappa in Sydney.
Ikin publicly labelled his father-in-law ‘arrogant and irresponsible’ for the prohibited meal.
‘It felt a bit arrogant to me, he (Bennett) should have just fessed up to struggling with living in the bubble and saying that he just sort of broke out of it,’ Ikin said on Fox Sports at the time.
Bennett has been with former secretary and mother-of-three Dale Cage (pictured) since 2016
‘Because there is not a single NRL employee, player, coach, whoever, that is inside the bubble and does not know those rules.’
Bennett was later fined $20,000 for his gaffe.
Ms Cage responded at Ikin’s criticism by leaping to the defence of her partner on social media.
‘People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones #just saying. The truth will hurt some people #staytuned #benikin,’ she posted on Instagram.
Doubling down, the glamorous blonde then uploaded a cryptic message, accusing Ikin of being a man with secrets.
‘The self-righteous scream judgement against other to hide the skeletons dancing in their own closets,’ the scathing post read.
Wayne and Trish Bennett (pictured with their three children) were married for 42 years
Until their marriage breakdown in 2016, Wayne Bennett attributed his great success as an NRL coach to his wife Trish (pictured with their three children)
Ikin and his wife Elizabeth, who have four children, sided with a heartbroken Trish, whom Bennett left in the cold a few years ago.
At the time, the notoriously private Bennett revealed he was no longer living in the family home and hadn’t for ‘some time’ before requesting the media respect his ‘personal privacy’ and that of his family.
In scenes resembling a Hollywood film, Ms Cage left her partner of more than 20 years – also the father of her children – and moved to Queensland to be with Bennett in 2016.
A source said her partner Jason had to tell their kids after he heard rumours about who his ex-partner was seeing.
‘He called Dale and she confirmed it, then he told the kids,’ the source told Daily Mail Australia.
Bennett has been in a relationship with Dale Cage (right) since 2016 – he left his wife of 42 years to date the secretary
Ikin will have his work cut out for him in his planned re-build at Brisbane.
The club’s fall from grace has been spectacular in the past few years, with the Broncos a real possibility of finishing with back-to-back NRL wooden spoons by September.
Coach Kevin Walters has seemingly lost the support of the players with just three wins in 15 rounds, as the once glamourous club became a rabble on and off the field.
Renowned for his astute football mind, Ikin is desperate to revive the flagging fortunes of the club where he won a premiership in 2000.
‘I know the Broncos need to be better and in this role I get a great opportunity to make them better and be part of the solution,’ he said.
‘At the moment for the Broncos it’s about getting everybody on the same page and as quickly as possible.’
Ikin played 55 games with the Broncos, and represented the Maroons in 17 State of Origin games.