The Rabbitohs celebrate a try.

The Seibold speech that set the tone for a Rabbitoh revival

Exactly one year ago this week, Rabbitohs football manager Shane Richardson made his "toughest decision in 30 years of football" – sacking Michael Maguire as South Sydney's coach and installing Anthony Seibold as his replacement a day later.

In that 24-hour period Seibold consulted Maguire, and only took the gig with the blessing of the close friend he first met some 20 years ago, when both were on the fringes of first grade in Canberra.

The next morning, Seibold fronted his Rabbitohs players for the first time as a head coach. Right up until his axing, Maguire had strong support from influential figures in the squad – particularly senior men including captain Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds.

Even without that significant backing, it was and still very much is, the roster Maguire assembled.

Dane Gagai was the only big name addition from 2017, and he, like the rest of the Rabbitohs, was secured under Maguire's watch.

With his first address Seibold set the tone for the turnaround. Redfern was not being torn down, and Maguire's legacy of discipline and work ethic – drilled into he and Seibold during their time as Craig Bellamy's assistants – would endure.

For a playing group in need of a change, but still shocked by Maguire's axing when he had been conducting individual season reviews with them just 48 hours earlier, it was exactly what they needed.

"It was huge," rising youngster Cameron Murray told NRL.com of Seibold's first day in charge.

"I remember him saying that he came through the same system that Madge did down at Melbourne and has been pretty tight with 'Madge' ever since.

Souths coach Anthony Seibold.
Souths coach Anthony Seibold. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

"First thing he said was it was such a difficult decision for him because it was bittersweet to see one of his good mates come through and get spat out the other side of the system.

"He consulted Madge and got his opinion on it before he accepted the job. He came in and he said that he was confident that he could do the best job for the team and he could transition us into a top four organisation.

"He stuck true to his word and he's been the same ever since, it's easy to buy in with him because he's very clear, very honest, and very direct."

Seibold comes up against Bellamy and Melbourne once more in their return to finals football this week.

For more than a decade, Bellamy has had three assistants taking the field every week for him.

Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and until this year Cooper Cronk possessing such rare footballing brains and abilities they doubled as their coach's eyes and ears on the paddock.

From day dot, Seibold in turn has put more decision-making on his players. They're backed to chance their arm, but also explain it afterwards with the rookie coach never shy about putting them on the spot with a game of 20 questions.

An "athlete-centred" approach as he puts it. One that has worked wonders with the newest breed of Bunnies – most of whom were given their first crack by Maguire.

Angus Crichton (22) and Damien Cook (27) have earned NSW Origin honours under Seibold, while Murray (21), Adam Doueihi (20), Campbell Graham (19), Rob Jennings (22) and Tevita Tatola (21) have all established themselves as first-graders.

Maguire's contribution at Redfern is never far from memory – not when his senior men helped end South Sydney's 43-year premiership drought under him, and their next generation cheered it on from the club's junior ranks.

Likewise, the current group haven't simply washed their hands of his tenure. Seibold has just revived it.

"We always had a good squad on paper," Cook said.

"Last year we did too, at the end of the year we were putting some wins together and wondering why we couldn't do that all year.

"It is a very similar squad that Madge did bring together, a couple of the younger boys have come on this year and are doing very well and Dane Gagai's come across too.

"From the very beginning Seibs came in and had worked out the style of footy we wanted to play.

"And then he got everyone to buy into that straight away and that's what we've done from that first day.

"Everyone's gone all-in believing in Seibs and he's put that belief and trust back in the players as well.

"I think that's where that big improvement has come from. The group's become very tight together and there's that trust and belief from the coaches down to the players. We're trying to repay them for that when we go out on the field."