Three issues that make these Broncos worst in history
WHEN you cut through the hysteria quite rightly prompted by the post-COVID Brisbane Broncos so far being perhaps the worst team in the club's proud history, there are actually three key interlinked issues to be addressed - and only one of them has to do with the coach.
The first is why the club itself is so reticent to acknowledge that anything serious is going wrong. Something clearly is - anyone who watched the rabble that took to the field on Saturday representing the NRL'S most successful brand can see that. And yet the club's approach to legitimate questions about what exactly might not be working has been to get defensive and angry at those levelling the criticism.
The Broncos boast more paid-up members than any other club. These fans deserve to know what the heck is happening, and what is being done to fix it. If the club is big enough to acknowledge the problem, and to take the fans on the journey with it as those problems are addressed, then it might actually win more fans along the way.
Australians love a redemption story. And hopefully that's what is coming for the Broncos. They surely can't slip much lower (it's the Warriors next weekend …).
And so the board should do what would happen outside of club land; commission an urgent review, and then commit to implementing its recommendations. Broncos chairman Karl Morris has promised that "if there are things to be acted on, we will certainly look at it". That is a positive first step, but a proper - quick - review should be next.
The second big issue relates to Broncos chief executive Paul White. This is his last year in the chair. He has made it known he is seeking the next opportunity. The awkward question then needs to be asked - is the boss as focused as he could be? How enduring are the battle scars from his very public falling out with former coach Wayne Bennett that led to Seibold's appointment? Is it time the boss and the board had a frank discussion about the future? Would an interim chief executive be a better option? All these questions should be being asked by the board.
And so to the obvious. The third big issue that needs to be addressed in a serious way is whether Anthony Seibold is the best man to coach this Broncos team for the rest of this year, and the next two remaining on his contract (remembering there is there is also an option for a fifth season). As it is with the second issue, there is no easy answer. Seibold was appointed through a pretty transparent process by a group that included Broncos legend Darren Lockyer. On paper at least, Seibold's appointment was the clear, correct decision.
And indeed in his first year in charge, Seibold took the team to the finals (where, yes, they endured a record loss - but it was top-eight all the same, which is par for the Broncos). The Broncos then won their first two games this season before the COVID lockdown.
It has been a total debacle since, but is five bad games enough to pull the trigger? How much of the criticism should actually be on the players, who have not only looked disjointed but also disinterested.
Has coach Seibold then also lost the dressing room? As Wayne Bennett has proven over the decades, on-field strategy is only one aspect of being a successful coach. Managing the players off the field is just as crucial - particularly when you have key players being openly approached by other clubs.
Is this then the reason Seibold should go? In both NRL and AFL we have seen some teams emerge from lockdown as a more cohesive unit - clear examples of where the coaches have used the crisis to build a culture. In the case of the Broncos - and the Sydney Swans in the AFL - the opposite has happened.
Seibold's appointment in late 2018 also had another unintended consequence that has since become increasingly apparent. By choosing him over former club great Kevin Walters, the board lost the support of many of the old-school Broncos alumni. A long list of former players have since lined up to fuel the fire that is now raging under Seibold.
The consequence of that criticism has been to further charge the siege mentality at Red Hill. And that, in turn, leads back to the first big issue outlined above - that the club is now in full defensive mode, which undermines its willingness to come clean with fans about the issues, which in turn only further inflames their frustrations.
One of the many wonderful things about the Brisbane Broncos is that because they have been so successful over the years, success is simply expected. When that doesn't happen it is a big, legitimate story - and one that must be addressed.
Originally published as Three issues that make these Broncos worst in history