Broncos bloodshed as Walters sacks club legend
Former Broncos skipper Corey Parker has spoken of his axing at the hands of Brisbane coach Kevin Walters, saying he didn't see the shock move coming.
In the first major ruction of Walters' NRL coaching career, tensions have broken out between the Broncos legends amid allegations Parker was punted from Brisbane's coaching staff without being formally told.
Breaking his silence on his mysterious departure, Parker has expressed confusion at being dumped by Walters, who had consulted the 347-game Broncos great about the make-up of his playing squad before and after becoming head coach.
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To compound the pain of his surprise termination, Parker claims he was never told by Walters of his sacking - until he personally phoned the Broncos coach to ask him if he was part of his plans this season.
Parker was one of former coach Anthony Seibold's team of assistants last season and says he had ongoing discussions with Walters as part of strategic plans to rebuild the Broncos this year following their wooden-spoon finish under Seibold.
Instead, Walters hired experienced duo John Cartwright and Terry Matterson as his assistants for his first year in charge.
When the Broncos launched their 2021 pre-season in late November, Parker says he was not informed, prompting him to make inquiries with Walters about his role, which shed light on his dismissal.
"It's disappointing," Parker said.
"Throughout 2020 I worked as a coaching consultant at the club, including after Kevvie got appointed, and feedback has always been positive.
"Throughout last year's finals series and then into the off-season I was training some of the boys early in the morning, starting at 5am.
"In the conversations I had with Kevvie (towards the end of last year), he intimated he wanted me involved and loved what I was doing.
"We all went away over the (Christmas) break and at no stage during that time did anyone suggest the coaching role would not continue.
"You don't have to be Einstein though to work out what's going on when the Broncos return to training and you haven't been notified.
"Once the new year rolled around I picked-up the phone and called Kev to find out where I stood and for whatever reason, he didn't want me involved with the team this year."
Walters and Parker are two of Brisbane's most decorated figures, having played a combined 588 games for the Broncos.
They have known each other for more than a decade, sharing in the joy of Walters' first Origin series win as Queensland coach in 2016, when forward ironman Parker was his Maroons lock in his final season in the NRL.
The pair have since been media colleagues as expert commentators for Fox Sports, but relations have been strained by Walters' decision to jettison Parker from his Broncos coaching staff.
Adding to the tension, it is understood Parker was told by Walters he would be Queensland's under-18s coach in 2019.
A month later, Kurt Richards, not Parker, was formally appointed to the role.
Walters can relate to being sacked an assistant. In 2005, he was sensationally axed by Broncos super coach Wayne Bennett, who told Walters he needed to leave Red Hill and spread his wings to improve his skill-set as a coach.
Now, 15 years later, Walters is back in Bennett's throne as Broncos head coach and says there is nothing sinister behind Parker's termination.
"There's no bad blood for me with Corey," he said.
"He is the second-most capped player at this club and he has a lot to add to the Broncos.
"That's not what this is about. Down the track, he has a lot to offer and even right now, there are things he can do for our club as an ambassador.
"I just felt I needed experience in my assistants and 'Carty' and Terry Matterson have each been coaching for 20 years. It was like me with Wayne, I went away to work on my coaching to get experience and it was good for me.
"There's nothing against Corey. He is always welcome at the Broncos."
Parker says he would have appreciated more transparency, but is determined not to let the setback derail his NRL coaching ambitions.
"Sometimes it is difficult having honest conversations and not everyone is comfortable having them," he said.
"I'm a big boy though and have known these people for many years. It shouldn't be difficult to communicate or to be transparent.
"What's happened has happened, I'll dust myself off and get on with it.
"Coaching is something I really enjoy and will continue to pursue. I am also really enjoying my work with Fox Sports.
"Would I love to be involved with the team this year? Absolutely. But I wish Kevvie and the Broncos all the best from afar."
Broncos hooker Jake Turpin was one of several young forwards mentored by Parker last year and praised the 2006 premiership winner's coaching ability.
"Cozza was really good for us," he said.
"He is very knowledgeable about the game, he is very smart and a very good role model for the younger guys.
"We have inexperienced forwards and Cozza was a really good role model for the younger guys.
"To have a guy who had played more than 300 games of NRL helping us, he was excellent, he brought a lot of knowledge around ruck play and how we could improve as forwards."
Originally published as Broncos bloodshed as Walters sacks club legend