Broncos in damage control after big-name bust-up
Kevin Walters insists his club is not at war with Brisbane's Old Boys following revelations of a pub altercation between his assistant, John Cartwright, and Broncos legend Chris Johns.
The ongoing tension between Brisbane's Old Boys and the Broncos suffered another ruction when Johns confirmed he was embroiled in an incident with Cartwright late last year just weeks into Walters' tenure at Red Hill.
The big-name bust-up came to light just 24 hours before new Broncos coach Walters watched his side crash to a dismal 34-18 trial loss to the Cowboys on Saturday night.
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Johns is the chairman of Brisbane's Old Boys club and has never been afraid to pull punches in his candid appraisal of the state of the Broncos, who crashed to the wooden-spoon under Anthony Seibold last season.
Johns' no-nonsense critique reached another flashpoint when he reportedly found himself at loggerheads with Cartwright, who was appointed by Walters as his assistant for Brisbane's rebuilding mission this season.
Johns revealed to News Corp on Friday he had a heated argument which turned into a physical wrestle with Cartwright at the Caxton Hotel.
It is understood Cartwright has vehemently denied allegations he grabbed Johns by the throat as their heated words intensified.
The Broncos cannot afford any instability following last season's nightmare campaign and Brisbane's board would not take kindly to a member of their coaching staff becoming embroiled in an off-field pub drama.
But Walters has spoken out on the incident, backing Cartwright and insisting his current Broncos regime has a harmonious relationship with Brisbane's demanding Old Boys.
"I don't know anything about that (Johns' bust-up with Cartwright)," said Walters.
"To my knowledge there wasn't an incident."
Told that Johns had confirmed he clashed with Cartwright, Walters added: "Well if it did happen, I wasn't there."
Asked if he would discuss the matter with Cartwright, Walters said: "I'm not going to talk to 'Carty' about it, he is a big fella and he can handle his own if that's been the case.
"'Johnsy' was at training the other day having a burger, so there's no problem ... I don't think too much happened."
Johns and Cartwright have known each other for 30 years, forming a close bond on the 1990 Kangaroo Tour.
Johns and Walters are even more tight-knit, having won Brisbane's first two premierships together in 1992-93, with the Broncos' Old Boys chairman having campaigned strongly for his good mate to take charge of Brisbane after Seibold's departure.
Johns revealed Cartwright took exception to his comments after the Broncos assistant coach and ex-Penrith back-rower made reference to the Panthers' golden years, which included a premiership win in 1991.
"It was a bit of a wrestle," Johns said.
"I said you have to get your mongrel back.
"I said (to Cartwright), 'At the Panthers you have won one comp, don't compare the Broncos (who have won six premierships) with the Panthers'.
"Carty got the s***ts and said, 'Don't start bagging my old club'.
"We're the best of mates. We always have been. It was at the break-up of the coaching staff (before Christmas) and they had asked me if I wanted to have a beer.
"If you were watching it you would have said, 'What are these blokes doing?'"
Walters described the Broncos as "fractured" last season and insists morale at Red Hill is strong despite a winless pre-season. The Broncos drew 22-all with Wynnum Manly in their opening trial before a disappointing 16-point loss to the Cowboys at Redcliffe.
"Winning is hard and you have to make sacrifices that others aren't to get those wins," Walters said the day before the Cowboys defeat.
"All pre-season our focus has been on our defence and improving that. We need to work on that trust and togetherness.
"We're happy with where we are and I've been impressed with the players' commitment over the last 10 weeks.
"I'm confident in the group we have here that they will make those sacrifices."
Originally published as Broncos in damage control after big-name bust-up