Oates: We felt relief once Bennett was gone
I WILL never forget our pre-season this year.
At a time when clubs are putting in the building blocks to win the premiership, the Broncos were all over the shop.
We had no idea what the future held for our club.
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Is Wayne Bennett staying as our coach? Is he going to be sacked? Will Anthony Seibold be our coach instead?
There was all this confusion. And there we were, in the first four weeks of pre-season approaching summer, jogging around an the oval just wanting some clarity so we could move forward as a playing group and do our jobs.
In the end, it was really sad to see Wayne Bennett go, especially given how it ended for him, but to be honest the players just felt relief.
A weight had been lifted off the entire club. We were sick of the gossip and speculation about Bennett's future at the Broncos.
All we wanted was clarity and certainty. Now we have that under Anthony Seibold.
Given that backdrop, I believe we have done a bloody good job as a squad to get the Broncos back in finals contention ahead of this week's so-called grudge match against Bennett's Bunnies at Suncorp on Friday night.
Our start to the season really hurt us. Winning two games from eight at a time when we were still getting used to Seibs' structures put us behind the eight-ball.
Our confidence took a hit, but over the past month, I honestly feel we are building a special culture at Red Hill.
There is a powerful team spirit here. If we keep our team of young superstars together, led by Payne Haas, David Fifita and Kotoni Staggs, I believe we will win a premiership in the next few years.
That's how good this young group is. The challenge will be keeping the squad together under the salary cap, but we not only have the playing ingredients, we have the right coach to get us to the holy grail in Seibold.
I've been asked quite a few times about the differences between Bennett and Seibold. Think of chalk and cheese and you're on the right track.
Seibs is very different to Wayne.
To be honest, he can be easier to talk to if you are a young fella. Bennett was very dry and very blunt, so you wouldn't get too much out of him. Bennett is a player's coach, but if he doesn't like you, he will let you know early on.
Seibs is some 25 years younger than Bennett, so I find him easy to connect with.
Seibold is pretty driven and straight down the middle but he does have a laugh now and then. There's a time to be serious and funny, and he has the balance right.
He is a very approachable coach. If you ever have any dramas, Seibold is always open to his players going to him to have a chat with him to see if he can help out.
Tactically, they are poles apart. Bennett is very good, old school and Seibold is pretty new school.
Every coach has their attacking and defensive structures and nothing is too radical in the NRL. You can only attack as well as your halves are playing. But there are definitely minor details that vary.
We have a different game model under Seibs. There are certain parts of the field he likes us to get to and there's a lot of minor details he likes us to be aware of. As players, he makes us very accountable. Everyone has to know their role.
Bennett was more relaxed in that way. He was great at giving players freedom and he was prepared for us to play what we see.
They now call it "eyes-up footy" and if the halves had some ideas, Bennett was happy to let them back themselves. He always had a basic framework around how we wanted to play, but he always gave the halves scope to create.
As a player, you always feel the winds of changes when a new coach comes in.
I remember going from Anthony Griffin to Bennett and even that was different. If you don't buy in as a group to the coach's philosophies, it becomes harder, but I've seen the group buy in to Seibold's methods and he has earned the respect of the group.
He has had a difficult first year here. We've had all sorts of injuries, blokes like Jimmy Roberts and Kodi Nikorima have left the club, and Seibold has had to blood a stack of kids, but in the long term I believe it will pay dividends for us if we hang on to them all.
As for my future at the Broncos, of course I want to stay. I'm still off contract but there's nowhere else I want to go. It will all be sorted out in the next few weeks.
I could probably earn more in Sydney but I love the Broncos as a club because of the scrutiny, professionalism and expectation.
You have to play your best game every week and it makes you a better player. At the Broncos, you can't have a crap game here or there. If you do, you cop all sorts of criticism, but that is a great motivation for me.
There's a lot of great things to being a Bronco. The club is professional and while we are always in the spotlight because of the history of the club, it makes you a mentally stronger player.