Wayne Bennett has come out swinging in defence of former protege Darius Boyd, describing the Brisbane skipper as a scapegoat for the Broncos' woes.
Boyd has reportedly been told he's not in the Broncos' plan for 2020 and will start next year in reserve grade after their season came to an ignominious close with a 58-0 humiliation to Parramatta.
Boyd and Andrew McCullough are said to be on the outer while Anthony Milford and Corey Oates also appear to be skating on thin ice.
Revelations that several Brisbane players were playing pokies at a Sydney pub on the eve of what was the biggest finals loss in the 112-year history of Australian first-grade rugby league has also poured fuel on the fire.
Boyd, 32, has repeatedly reiterated his desire to see out the remaining final two years of his deal and ex-Broncos coach Bennett said he had unfairly shouldered the blame for the club's performance.
"That's a good point about Darius - he's taken a lot of the blame and a lot of the criticism," Bennett said.
"But he's been in a team that's struggled all year. No one ever stands out in those teams.
"I've coached those teams at different stages and I think he's taken too much of the criticism. But that's the way it goes."
Bennett and Boyd were inseparable and shared a father-son relationship during their 13 seasons of first-grade together.
Bennett gave Boyd his debut in 2006, winning a premiership together at Brisbane that year.
Boyd then followed Bennett to St George Illawarra and then Newcastle and then back to Brisbane.
They parted ways for the first time in Boyd's career when Bennett left for South Sydney this year.
Bennett said he hadn't reached out to Boyd but backed him to rediscover his best form.
"Stay true to himself," Bennett said when asked about his advice to Boyd.
"I know this much - there'd be no harder trainer at the Broncos than Darius Boyd.
"No one prepares better than he would. I went through 14 seasons with him.
"If he doesn't have the commitment anymore, that's a different matter. But if he's committed to being the best he possibly can and he still wants to play, my advice is to be true to yourself."
Australian Associated Press