Seibold: My players can’t carry drought burden
Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold has hit back at critics of the club's premiership drought, declaring "this is not our burden" as he revealed his tactical plan to create a new Broncos dynasty.
Seibold opened up to The Sunday Mail in one of his most extensive interviews ahead of a critical season in Brisbane's history - starting with this Friday's season-opening derby against the Cowboys in Townsville.
The 2018 Dally M coach of the year faces enormous scrutiny this season. His most recent game in charge was a 58-0 flogging against Parramatta last September, a finals disaster that represents the worst loss in Brisbane's proud 32-year history.
Then there's the millstone dangling around Brisbane's neck - a 14-year title drought that many consider unacceptable for a $51 million organisation that is the richest team in the NRL and has a monopoly in south-east Queensland.
"It's a tricky one," Seibold says. "I get the expectation on the Broncos."
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SEIBOLD accepts the natives are restless. Broncos fans are demanding the club's first title since 2006. But the former Queensland Origin assistant coach brings perspective to the debate, arguing the current group should not pay the price for past failures.
"I have no control over external opinions and what people expect of the Broncos," he said.
"But to be fair, myself and the players now here should not have to be burdened with the Broncos not having won the premiership since 2006.
"David Fifita (Broncos back-rower) was six years old (when the club last won the premiership). Payne Haas was seven. Xavier Coates and Tom Dearden were five. Patty Carrigan was eight years old.
"It's not our burden. The guys know that.
"I have implemented a framework here to bring success. We have a vastly talented young group and I know where we are going. I feel privileged to be coaching this group and the guys know me a lot better this year and I know them a lot better.
"I am confident in the roster we have in 2020."
ENTERING his second year in charge at Red Hill, Seibold has shut the door on the Eels debacle. He sees no benefit in constant analysis of the darkest day in Broncos history. But, applying a wider lens to Brisbane's 2019 campaign, Seibold gleaned some important insights into his squad.
"I accept there were games that were not acceptable," he says. "The final against Parramatta was one of them. But we beat the same team two weeks earlier. Talent doesn't change in a fortnight. Fitness doesn't change. So what changes? It's clearly mental.
"We capitulated in the finals and I take responsibility for that. The NRL is like a bull ride, it really is. Sometimes you hold on for eight seconds and sometimes you get bucked off. We held on for eight seconds in great wins against the Roosters and Cronulla last year. But sometimes we got bucked off and that happened big time against Parramatta."
Privately, Brisbane's high-performance data was compelling. It showed some Broncos players were not meeting the training benchmarks Seibold had experienced first-hand at big guns Souths and Melbourne. The squad needed a harder, sharper edge.
"To be honest, I felt we were physically underdeveloped last year," he says.
"I know our strengths, but the big thing for me is the physical development of our squad.
"I found the group last year was lacking in some areas. I'm not knocking what happened in the past (under former coach Wayne Bennett), but guys like Kotoni Staggs or Payne Haas have only had one or two pre-seasons.
"Rugby league is a late maturation sport. It takes some time to build physical qualities to become an elite NRL player. We have a lot of young men who are in the zero-to-two-year range of NRL career development.
"We have had to make some strides in training and much of that related to the youth in our squad."
THE GAME PLAN
THE club Wayne Bennett built has always had a penchant for free-wheeling football. The Broncos won six premierships as the NRL's chief entertainers.
In his only year at Souths, Seibold demonstrated his sides can be potent on offence, but the core of Brisbane's game plan this season will focus on their efforts without the ball.
"I am not a structured coach," Seibold explained. "We play to certain principles here. Our principles in attack are around creating momentum, applying pressure and capitalising off the back of that.
"But I am trying to improve the limiting factors in our game model. There are some areas in our game that we were deficient in last year.
"In terms of our weapons, we had the quickest play-the-ball in the NRL (last season) and we broke more tackles than any other team, but our big focus is how can we win without the footy?
"Individually, you only have possession for a small amount of time. For example, Payne Haas might have 20 carries in a game for 10 seconds per run. That's only a few minutes per game that Payne is touching the footy.
"So it's what we do without the football that will take us from an average team that finished eighth to a team that gets better.
"Winning without the football is the key, whether we are in transition (from attack to defence and vice-versa), defending or don't have the ball in attack. What is each player's job?
"That's a big focus for us as a team this year."
SEIBOLD is adamant the decision to strip Darius Boyd of the captaincy will not affect the retiring veteran's form this season.
"It was a tough conversation but an easy one in some ways," he said.
"I've coached at quite a few organisations and Darius is the ultimate pro. I love working with him so the hard conversation to have was taking the captaincy off somebody I really respect and even admire.
"But the easy part was telling him I wanted him to concentrate on his football and his new role in the team. Darius is still in the leadership group. He has been a fantastic mentor to Matt Lodge and Pat Carrigan.
"Darius doesn't need a 'C' beside his name to be a leader. Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater weren't captains at Melbourne but they were outstanding leaders. He is comfortable in his own skin. I always say to our young guys, 'Look at how Darius prepares. Watch him. He is a legend of our game'.
"He has had a good pre-season. I'm looking at him at left centre this season and I believe he can make a good fist of it."
ALL eyes are on Brodie Croft this season. Seibold urged the Storm recruit to stamp his mark on the team.
"I had Brodie in a Queensland Emerging team so I have known him since he was in Year 12. I think he's up to it," he said.
"This is a good opportunity for 'Crofty'. He has played (39) NRL games, he has played in semi-finals and a grand final. He has had a taste of what the big games look like.
"Brodie played in the Australian under-23s last year so he's regarded by Mal Meninga (Test coach) as the best young halfback in the game.
"I rang Adam O'Brien before he joined Newcastle and I asked him about Croft. Adam worked with him in Melbourne. He said, 'No one will beat Crofty on work ethic'.
"I've seen that. He is the last guy off the field. I like his principle-based approach to football. Now he has the opportunity to lead a team around the park here which he is craving."
"There is no doubt your emotions fluctuate. It's human nature," Seibold says.
"When you have a great win, you feel on top of the world. When you have a shitty loss, you think is this all worth it?
"But I feel I have a good perspective on things. This is a vocation I understand. Coaching is teaching. I'm a teacher. It's a really noble vocation. I am very energised by helping people get better. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning. I love seeing guys achieve what they set out to achieve. Any occupation has good and bad days. But I find it very humbling. Sometimes the scoreboard seduces people and sometimes it doesn't love you.
"But I am comfortable in my own skin. We had some tough days last year but we had a lot of instability and we still made the finals.
"We're all working hard to get better."