Seibold’s training methods led to demise at Broncos
Brisbane players raised issues with Anthony Seibold's high-speed game model and a belief he did not heed their concerns played a role in the dressingroom breakdown that led to his demise as Broncos coach.
Seibold quit on Wednesday, having endured the stress of heavy losses and some sickening social media slurs, but the first ruction occurred with Brisbane players over the key methodology that saw him clinch the Broncos job.
Well before the COVID-19 saga in March that destabilised every club, Seibold had an internal problem.
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Key Broncos players were not buying into a key plank of his tactical armoury.
Seibold had seduced the NRL with his breathtaking style of play at South Sydney in 2018.
It was intoxicating: quick shifts, rapid-fire ball movement, bodies in motion.
The Rabbitohs were ripping teams apart with an up-tempo offence that propelled them into the top four.
By season's end, Seibold was named NRL coach of the year. It was a magnificent rookie season of coaching.
Seibold had a simple yet seminal explanation for Souths' success. They practised at a faster speed during the week, Seibold theorising that if his troops could operate at a quicker tempo at training, then play would be easier at normal match speed on NRL game day.
It all worked a treat at Redfern. Broncos bosses saw a visionary.
They believed the game model, as Seibold calls it, could be injected to Red Hill to break the Broncos' 14-year premiership drought.
But, just 12 months into Seibold's tenure, his turbo training had Broncos players in a spin. After Brisbane's shock 58-0 loss to Parramatta in last year's finals, Seibold held one-on-one reviews with 30 Broncos players. Alarm bells were ringing.
"We told 'Seibs' this game model was too fast," said one Broncos player.
"We were making too many errors in games because we weren't getting the basics right at training.
"We said this high-speed stuff isn't working. He said, 'OK, I will take it on board' … but nothing ever changed."
At Souths, Seibold had established, proven members of his playmaking spine. Players like Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds and Damien Cook had the fitness, instincts and experience to drive his up-tempo game model.
But at the Broncos, Seibold inherited one of the youngest rosters in the NRL.
Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima were still raw as a scrumbase union. Tom Dearden, a promising halfback, was only 17. Many Broncos greenhorns were still grasping the concepts of NRL play and craving a coach who could show them the ropes and develop their skill sets.
Initially, Seibold, who calls himself a development coach, seemed the right fit.
"He analysed data in ways that I hadn't seen," Darius Boyd writes in his soon-to-be released book.
"Crunching statistics from training sessions to understand the best ways that we could prepare for the season ahead.
"Through this research Seibs had bench-marked the physical intensity of an average NRL game and he could check the stats from our training sessions to compare our exertion. He wanted us to train at an intensity higher than an NRL game, so he continued to work us hard through the pre-season."
A teacher by profession, the cerebral Seibold was big on theory, continuous learning and self-betterment.
Seibold made it compulsory for players to bring notebooks to training. Players were stunned by the number of daily meetings that also included coaching staff.
But applying that theory into on-the-job, football practicality is where the breakdown began.
Broncos players spoken to by The Sunday Mail likened Seibold's coaching to being given the keys to a Ferrari without first learning how to drive a car.
Seibold had a core set of playing principles. But in his penchant for high-speed training, execution, and cohesion, fell by the wayside.
If Broncos players botched a move at training, sessions wouldn't be slowed down, or stopped, to ensure they nailed the play. Players became frustrated with constant speed, speed, speed without a basic breakdown of where they were going wrong and how to fix it.
Feeling Seibold wasn't listening to their feedback, a group of players approached Broncos CEO Paul White and board member Darren Lockyer (above) to convey their concerns.
"We spoke to Seibs about doing more specific coaching to improve the players," one Broncos player said.
"He said it's up to us to better ourselves. We said, 'But you're the head coach'.
"For a guy who came from Melbourne, we had high hopes about Seibs helping us with our defence, but we did no defensive mapping, no technical stuff.
"Our defence got worse."
As a result, Brisbane have conceded 523 points this season from 16 games. They are leaking 32 points per game. It is the worst defensive record in the club's history.
Asked about his game model on Wednesday following his departure, Seibold said: "We had some different challenges.
"If you talk about game model, in our first two games this year (wins over the Cowboys and Souths), we enacted it extremely well.
"For whatever reason since the COVID break, there's been some challenges. We just couldn't build any continuity with our team (due to injuries and suspensions).
"We had so many changes.
"The more you play together, the more continuity you build and the more you trust each other."
Ultimately, Brisbane's players lost trust in Seibold's coaching systems. The Broncos' game model became a high-speed car crash.