Anthony Seibold, Brisbane Broncos, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Eddie Jones, England, Rugby World Cup, Six Nations, where does Seibold train now, Maroons, Storm
Before Anthony Seibold arrived at Pennyhill Park late last year to join Eddie Jones’ England national rugby team, he boarded his flight with two lingering thoughts.
“I’m Australian and I come from rugby league,” Seibold said. foxsports.com.au over coffee on Sydney’s northern beaches after returning from their recent Six Nations campaign.
But it wasn’t just that he came from rugby league.
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Just a year earlier, Seibold had been ’embarrassed’ after ‘failing’ at the Brisbane Broncos, which resulted in the highly experienced coach being parted with less than two years in a mega five-year contract, who had a sixth year in addition.
“I was challenged and struggled because I was embarrassed to fail up there,” said 2018 Coach of the Year Dally M.
“There are so many things that happened that I look back on and think about.
“I regret leaving South Sydney.
“I made a business decision. I didn’t make a decision with my heart, I made a decision with my head and it took a pear shape.
“There are a lot of reasons for this, but I have to raise my hand because at the end of the day, I’m the main reason why this came into a pear shape.
“I regret some things about leaving South Sydney, I would do some things differently.
“I would do some things differently, I would do some things the same way at the Broncos.”
As Seibold prepared to land he realized the England squad included a number of players who were watching the NRL, including captain Owen Farrell, whose father Andy was a double international.
It wasn’t long before his apprehensions eased, as a series of zoom calls with senior executives, including Farrell, helped break the ice.
“I was a bit vulnerable,” he said.
“I wanted to introduce myself, give some context, chat, not talk about rugby, but say that’s where I’ve been; I had a few successes, a few failures and I was just vulnerable. I’m Australian and I come from the league.
“But from the minute I walked in there, the players were thirsty to be coached.
“They had a great attitude, a real growth mindset, they wanted feedback; what i found was that they just wanted to know that i cared about them and that i could help them become better players. I loved it, I really enjoyed it. It was an exceptional experience.
How Seibold ended up in England is another example of the great moments of living with sliding doors.
When Jones’ England last ventured out in 2016, Seibold was deep inside the original Queensland side.
Alongside Kevin Walters, who has since taken over the Broncos, Seibold helped the Maroons to a 2-1 series win.
Meanwhile, Jones, with Seibold watching with interest from afar, burst Michael Cheika’s Wallabies bubble as they won in Australia in a 3-0 series win.
Later in 2016, Seibold met Rabbitohs tragic Jones in Coogee for the first time.
The meeting would start a relationship, which grew stronger year after year.
“We spent about three or four hours together, learned a lot together, so it was just the start of pre-season at Souths, so I kind of shared what I was trying to do to improve the club,” Seibold recalled.
“We had finished 12th two years in a row, so we changed the way we prepared and the way we wanted to play our football.
“And Eddie loves the league, he loves seeing what he can bring back from the league to rugby union.
“From that long conversation, we always kept in touch and obviously we had a lot of success that year in South Sydney, so Eddie kept reaching out and asking ‘What’s did you do here? What do you see over there?
“We went from a team that finished 11th in points scored in the competition to the team that scored the most points, we were also in the top four defensively that year so we were doing a lot properly and Eddie was watching what we were doing.
Even after Seibold’s controversial arrival at the Broncos, and even more talked about departure, there was one constant in his corner: Jones.
Less than a fortnight after Seibold’s disorderly departure from the fallen NRL powerhouse, Jones had contacted him and handed him a series of projects.
“Basically what I did for about 12 months was watch their games, like you were attacking against the opponent in rugby league,” Seibold said.
“So playing Ireland, how would you attack them in rugby league, or playing Wales or whoever it was, so I did that and sent him reports.
“Because I wasn’t attending coaching meetings or working day-to-day with the players, it was almost like a pair of eyes outside of the squad and looking at it from a different perspective.
“I think during that time Eddie enjoyed the conversations and probably appreciated someone looking at them from a different perspective.”
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It wasn’t long before Jones reached out again, but this time it was with the invitation to come on board full time.
Seibold, who rediscovered his “love of coaching and rugby league” working with Adam O’Brien as a coaching consultant, jumped at the offer.
In their first November campaign, England beat the Wallabies and snuck home against the world champion Springboks.
Their Six Nations campaign has not been as successful, with Jones’ position again coming under scrutiny while Seibold’s appointment has also been questioned by an England public demanding results.
Still, Seibold loved the experience.
“We had five games at Twickenham, all 82,000 sold out,” he says.
“Arriving on the bus before the game is something different, it’s mind-blowing.
“What blew my mind was when we played in Paris and France were going for the Grand Slam, which they hadn’t won for 12 years, and they had to beat us to win the Grand Slam.
“I think when I came out for a warm-up there were already 60,000 people there for the warm-up 30 minutes before the game singing and singing and, man, that vibe in Paris, I’m talking about Origin , grand final , I’ve never seen or heard anything like it and it gives you a taste of what the World Cup will be like.
Seibold will then wear an England tracksuit for a fortnight in June, before Jones’ side return Down Under for another three-match Test series six years after making a number out of the Wallabies.
Did he ever imagine doing it in 2016 when he was Walters’ assistant with the Maroons?
“No mate. Wouldn’t have laughed, but it was never on the radar,” Seibold says.
“But things happen for a reason.”
That’s why Seibold won’t rule out a return to the NRL.
For now though, he’s just enjoying the ride.
“I feel very blessed,” he said.
“I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the best coaches.
“I’m talking about Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm, I loved it, working with him and Frank Ponissi, I learned more about coaching and rugby league than ever and had been involved since I was six or seven years.
“To also work with players like Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater was amazing.
“Then I had the opportunity to work with the Queensland Origin team as an assistant manager, so I had some really good experiences and then I had some really shitty experiences.
“At the end of the day, I had a six-year contract with the Broncos and I finished in the middle of the second year.
“But you learn more from your failures than you do from the good times, so for someone like Eddie to continually stay in touch and value me as a coach, because I feel like to be a good coach and I showed that over for a long time, I had a really tough and unforgiving time at the Broncos, but you learn a lot from that.
“I feel very lucky that Eddie values me as a coach and I’m working in a setup like no other.”