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Seibold reveals 'mixed emotions' behind Rabbitohs' appointment

Rabbitohs' new coach Anthony Seibold:
Rabbitohs' new coach Anthony Seibold: "I've been invested in the culture here for 12 months, and I felt like it was a really good fit.” Dean Lewins

RUGBY LEAGUE: Rockhampton's Anthony Seibold admits there were mixed emotions around his whirlwind appointment as head coach of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Last Tuesday night, 2014 premiership-winning coach Michael 'Madge' Maguire was axed. On Wednesday morning Seibold, the club's assistant coach, was offered the job and by that afternoon he had accepted it.

On Thursday morning, he was announced as Souths' new head coach for the next two years.

"It's probably only really sinking in now,” Seibold said when he spoke to The Morning Bulletin on Friday.

"I didn't have a lot of time to make the decision. The club had made the decision that they wanted to promote from within.

The Rabbitohs' Robert Jennings and his teammates celebrate after scoring a try.
The Rabbitohs' Robert Jennings and his teammates celebrate after scoring a try. JOEL CARRETT

"It was a really good opportunity for me going forward so I was really excited about it. I've been invested in the culture here for 12 months, and I felt like it was a really good fit.

"But seeing a mate lose his job and 24 hours later being offered the opportunity to step into the head coaching role, something I've wanted for such a long time, there really were a lot of mixed emotions.”

Seibold said there were three main considerations but in his heart of hearts he knew his answer would ultimately be yes.

The first was the effect such a demanding role would have on his family, the second was the impact on Maguire and his family and thirdly, his willingness and capability to do the job.

As our conversation continued, Seibold also said the prospect of having to surrender his job as State of Origin assistant coach, which he held for the past two years, was something else that came to mind.

"I actually rang Kevvie Walters about that. Like I said to him, I've been working really hard towards an opportunity as a head coach and roles like this are like hen's teeth,” he said.

Anthony Seibold at a Maroons training camp.
Anthony Seibold at a Maroons training camp. contributed

"I think that I've been really good for the Queensland team in my specific role there as assistant coach and probably more importantly the Origin experience has been outstanding for me and probably one of the key reasons I've been given an opportunity like this.”

Seibold addressed the playing group on Thursday, his key message that when they all returned for pre-season on November 1 they knew it was "time to go to work”.

He said his first priority was to get his head around what's required as head coach - "the areas that we need to maintain and the areas that we need to improve”.

He was quick to counter suggestions that he was an "overnight success”.

"I've had 11 years as a full-time coach so I've done a very long apprenticeship across a number of clubs, both here in Australia and over in the UK.

"I've put in a lot of hard work; people don't see how much work goes into being a coach or an assistant coach, particularly at NRL level.”

Seibold's coaching ambition emerged in his late teens when he was being coached by the master, Wayne Bennett, at the Broncos and his first coaching gig - at the Celtic Crusaders in Wales in 2006 - really whet his appetite for the job.

Rockhampton's Anthony Seibold was assistant coach with the Maroons for two years.
Rockhampton's Anthony Seibold was assistant coach with the Maroons for two years. contributed

He had set a time frame for success - and that was age 45.

"I was hoping that the opportunity may come earlier but I thought: 'I want to give this everything I've got until I'm 45 and if I'm not in the position to be a head coach then I might reconsider what I do next',” he said.

"I'm 42 now. I've been given the opportunity for the next two years and I do really want to enjoy the whole experience.

"It's not something that many people are afforded the opportunity to do so I'm really grateful for it.

"I want to look back in 10 or 15 years when I'm talking to my grandkids and really appreciate the opportunity I've been given.

"It's up to me now how I handle the role and I need to make sure that I keep really focused and continue to work hard because that's what got me to this position.”

Seibold harks back to a piece of advice that Craig Bellamy shared with him during his time at the Melbourne Storm.

"It was a saying from Pat Riley, a professional basketball coach, which was 'Keep the main thing the main thing'.

"For me that main thing is coaching the players.

"The danger from what I perceive for a head coach is trying to control everything in the club from the commercial department to the marketing.

"My main thing is coaching the team, preparing the team as best I can and I really want to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Angus Crichton is among the young talent emerging at Souths that has the coach looking forward with optimism.
Angus Crichton is among the young talent emerging at Souths that has the coach looking forward with optimism. DAVID MOIR

One of Seibold's greatest strengths is developing young players and he has a wealth of rising talent to work with at Souths, with the likes of Cameron Murray and Angus Crichton.

Nine players 21 or younger played in the NRL this year and Seibold says a priority is ensuring they understand the consistency required at NRL level.

"I have an athlete-centred philosophy to my coaching,” he says when asked to describe his style.

"I ask a lot of questions, ask and give feedback, use games for understanding. I'm very big on development and education.

"I think relationships are key in any sort of industry and any sort of leadership role.

"They might be NRL players but they're people first and players second so building strong relationships with the players and the other staff is a really big part of my coaching.”

Seibold said a 12th placed finish for Souths was disappointing, and the loss of captain Greg Inglis in game one was a big blow the team struggled to recover from.

"It was a challenging year for a lot of reasons but the positive is that we exposed a whole heap of young players to the NRL,” he said.

Sam Burgess had another big season with the Rabbitohs.
Sam Burgess had another big season with the Rabbitohs. DAN HIMBRECHTS

"Big Sam Burgess was outstanding again for us, we add Dane Gagai to the group and getting Greg Inglis back on the park is going to be a big addition for us as well so there's plenty to be optimistic about.”

Seibold said he was not setting goals for the next two seasons.

"There's no point saying we want to be a top four team or a top eight team. For me, it's about working really hard day to day and when you work really hard day to day that means you're working really hard week go week.

"We all know that we finished 12th this year and we all know that we have ambitions to finish up the table.

"Like every team in the competition, we want to be in the finals but we need to work hard.

"This is what I do know - you get what you deserve and sometimes luck may play a part in it, injuries and decisions and whatever else, but you need to make sure you give yourself the best chance and you do that through your preparation.

"That's all I want to talk about and that's all I want to focus on.

"I want to prepare really well and the results will come off the back of that.”

Maroons assistant coach Anthony Seibold with the State of Origin trophy after the 2017 series win.
Maroons assistant coach Anthony Seibold with the State of Origin trophy after the 2017 series win. CONTRIBUTED

While Seibold describes his Origin experience as "unbelievable” and "incredible”, he says the head coaching role is the pinnacle of his career.

And to take the position at one of the biggest membership-based clubs adds another dimension to the role.

"It's a big club and it means a lot to the community, not just in Redfern but in the south of Sydney, and I'm taking that responsibility very seriously,” he said.

"I've got this opportunity because I've worked hard and been very focused on what I need to do and what I need to do to get better.

"That can't change because I'm the head coach. I need to continue to work hard and be really focused on what my job is and I need to continue to want to get better because that's how people grow.”