I’VE CHANNELLED rugbyleaguehub.com writing colleague Nick Tedeschi here and, instead of writing one big piece, this week have broken the column down into different segments. But I’ve got to start with the Broncos.
THE BRONCOS CIRCUS
It started with a circus when he was appointed and Anthony Seibold is now leaving the Brisbane Broncos circus behind. It ends what has been a blatantly shocking period for the club and even the ending had an element of circus about it too.
What is more shocking, is that it took this long to take action. I wrote on July 2 that it was at a crossroads and either the board needed to act on the coach or on themselves. The reality is they have done neither and this season has been a disaster. They’ve stumbled from one on-field or off-field mess-up to another and – whenever you thought they’d reached rock bottom – something else shocking was in the news, taking them further into the doldrums.
I’m not convinced Seibold is the only problem at that club at all but something had to change for the sake of the organisation, the players, the staff but most importantly the members and fans who deserve a lot better from the richest franchise in the competition.
Here’s hoping Seibold rejuvenates, puts family first and gets his career back on track somewhere along the line. For now, he’s better off staying off that rollercoaster.
ASSESSING HASLER AND THE TOP EIGHT PLAY-OFF SYSTEM
I’ve got a mate who’s a Bulldogs fan and he says I go too soft on Des Hasler. He points to the fact that Des has had one top four finish in nine seasons of coaching and I should write about that and the fact that teams rarely win the premiership when outside the top four. In response I asked him how many times a Hasler team had made the semis (basically most years in that time) but he also reminded me that I have never been a huge fan of a top eight system to decide a champion.
Firstly, Hasler. Des will have a job at Manly for as long as he wants it I’d imagine but I’d take a look at the injuries they’re suffering and see if there is anything in training and preparation that needs to change as injuries have crippled his team this year. I don’t think a judgement day on Des is due yet. He’s got too much credit in the bank as a coach. Neither the Sea Eagles nor the Dogs have been that successful when Des wasn’t there in the last decade and he went through a phase where, if the Dogs had won either one or both of the grand finals they reached in 2012 and 2014, we’d be very comfortable calling him a ‘super coach’ after the two comps he won previously at the Sea Eagles.
The top eight system is another issue entirely. It rewards mediocrity. Finish in eighth and you make the semis, but you’d also be mid table. In other walks of life they call that “mid table mediocrity”. I don’t like it and never have but I know it’s for TV and revenue. For mine, bring back the old top five system from the Winfield Cup days.
DRAGONS DEN HIGHLIGHTS CLUB POLITICS
I posted this on my @rugbyleaguecoach social media platforms last week and I thought it was suitable to replicate here for those who didn’t see it. (If you did, just skip to the next topic!)
The reported treatment of Paul McGregor at St George Illawarra Dragons highlighted how coaches can be hampered by “club politics” or other factors. If you’re a coach who can do your job without interference and with support from your organisation then you are a lucky guy or gal.
At one of the clubs I coached at several years ago, after a couple of rounds, it was clear one of the centres I had was a serious defensive weakness. So I dropped him for the next round. The then head of recruitment pulled me in to ask me why I’d dropped a player he had recruited into the club.
I then proceeded to show the official the clips of this player on my analysis software. The clips showed this player missing seven tackles. One clip showed the player prone on the floor whilst someone ran right over him. The club official told me I was “wrong” and that the player “had not missed those tackles”.
I could not believe my ears. The footage doesn’t lie does it?
But politics was at play. It would have made him look like a dud recruitment officer if he was dropped. So he demanded I pick him and told me I was seeing things.
That particular recruitment manager has never been regarded as good at his job from those who know who’s who in the game. And you’ll never see him mentioned in high regard when it comes to recruitment. And that particular player never achieved anything more in the game either.
The official is a survivor who spins things to survive. He’s still surviving now in the game, one of those “loyal club men”, sticks knives into backs of others to feather his own nest and protect his own reputation.
This is what happens in the game at the highest levels and what some coaches have to deal with. And let’s not forget, these things impact the players, too. It’s not about us as coaches and officials. The game is about them.
WILL SBW BE A HIT ?
Sonny Bill Williams will soon be ready to don the Roosters jersey for the remaining rounds of the NRL competition. He’s in his mid-thirties and hasn’t played in the NRL since 2014 when he was probably at the peak of his powers.
It’s going to be intriguing to see the impact he has. He will DEFINITELY have an impact on the training field and in the dressing room with his leadership skills and positive talk. Yet in his recent stint at the Toronto Wolfpack, he looked nowhere near the player he used to be. He was still trying to produce the old magic but it was as if the legs were somewhat heavier and some of his tackles were mistimed.
We’ve got to remember, he had been out of league a long time and also, who knows what the Toronto strength and conditioning staff made SBW and his team mates do, as they all looked somewhat off the pace. I don’t see that being a problem with the staff around the Roosters.
Don’t be too harsh on SBW is he reigns in some of his game, keeps things a little simpler, cuts out some of the risky offloads and all that kind of thing. Don’t be surprised either if Roosters coach Trent Robinson uses his sparingly off the bench.
SHORT & SHARP
- Mitch Aubusson announcing his retirement this week brings to an end an exceptional professional career. What a player.
- Everyone is waxing lyrical about Penrith Panthers when it comes to the NRL premiership. There’s plenty of time for it to swing yet and lots of footy to play.
- Ben Barba might be joining Valencia Huracanes. The world found out because of court statements from North Queensland. Surely the first time in rugby league history that a potential signing has been leaked from a courtroom?
A NICE TALE TO FINISH
Ben Ikin has been linked with the soon-to-be-vacant Brisbane Broncos CEO job. He has been nothing but impressive as a TV host on Fox Sports and once I had chance to see first-hand what a professional he is.
I invited him once to present a “360” type event for a school fund raising dinner. When I asked him on the phone how much he wanted he said, we’d talk about it on the night. He turned up on time and dressed just like he does on NRL 360. He has his notebook with him, the kind you’ve seen in front of him on the 360 desk so often and – as always – it was chock full of notes.
He said “Lee, is 20 minutes ok?” I said “no problem Ben, but how much can I pay you?” After all, he’d prepared like he was hosting the TV show, not a school version with no cameras. A previous ex player had asked for $1800 to do a 15 minute speech about himself.
“I’m not taking money off a school, Lee” he said. He then held the stage and interviewed our guests for well over 40 minutes and it was brilliant stuff, just like you see on the TV show.
The Broncos sure need some meticulous professionalism right now.
Lee Addison is the Head of Performance for Spain Rugby League but any views expressed in this column are his own. You can find him at rugbyleaguecoach.com.au. He is also offering FREE 4 week training programs for Coaches and Players to help recover from COVID. Please visit the ‘Rugby League Coach’ YouTube page, click subscribe and send a screenshot to firstname.lastname@example.org for your free programs.