Seibold, Bennett can't escape blame game

In 2008, Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett and his players had won just two games from mid-May through to mid-July – or five losses and a draw in eight matches.

"We're on the crest of a slump," Bennett said in his soft, unemotional tone.

Things picked up from round 19 as the Broncos won six of their last eight matches to finish the season in fifth spot.

But everyone blamed the coach, even though he had won a premiership with the Broncos just two years earlier.

If another "crest" starts forming somewhere in the 2019 Telstra Premiership, you can bet your last dollar the blame will be placed squarely at his feet again – this time for not swapping with Anthony Seibold and heading off to Redfern Oval, closing his office door at Red Hill for the last time.

And Seibold doesn't escape either.

Any time in 2019 his win-loss ledger dips in the red, they (media, fans, critics) will blame the coach. If a South Sydney player mucks up off-field, they'll blame the coach. And if there's a leak in the dressing sheds roof, they'll blame the coach.

Remember, the Rabbitohs started with two wins from their opening five games in 2018 and the jury was still out on the rookie NRL coach.

But the players seemed to adore him and the style of football was highly entertaining so Seibold had plenty of soft cushions to land on.

Then from early May to mid-July he and his players strung nine straight wins together. That formed the backbone of finishing third on the NRL ladder and one game shy of the grand final.

So, the message is simple for both coaches next season is: "Just keep winning …"

The players are crucial in keeping Seibold and Bennett sane.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga hinted that would be the case as he congratulated Bennett for sticking to his guns and completing his contract.

"He's obviously told the players he's going to remain at the club. He's good to his word, good on him," told NRL.com.

Meninga didn't agree that recruitment or loyalty issues would become a bugbear for the players.

"If I'm in that situation as a player I'm going to show a fair bit of mental toughness and rally around the coach and make sure we're successful in that year to send him out a winner," the national mentor said.

"The Broncos will be very competitive under Wayne regardless … when this all dies off the players will be training hard and focusing on their performances."

In truth, results will dictate how many barbs are sent their coach's way, starting with the post-match media conferences and ending up in fan forums.

In between if players are constantly asked in their midweek media sessions about Seibold or Bennett's demeanour, influence or integrity, that could create some simmering tensions.

Bennett and Seibold grew tired of the continual questions on their coaching futures this year. But it gave them an insight into what 2019 might be like from the get-go.

No doubt both men will be asked about the fortunes of their prospective teams. For example, in round one if the Broncos take a beating at AAMI Park by the Storm on March 14 and Seibold is asked 24 hours later after the Roosters-Rabbitohs game how he viewed the Melbourne result.

Or before round 13, with Joe Ofahengaue and Alex Glenn off contract at the Broncos in 2019 and Seibold is asked he he'd like to see them recommit to the club.

Even NRL boss Todd Greenberg was dragged into the coach-swapping saga on Friday, while trying to whip up support for the inaugural Downer 9s World Cup next October 18-19.

"Look, there's not much use me adding much commentary to that issue. If it gets resolved, it gets resolved," Greenberg said.

When this all dies off the players will be training hard and focusing on their performances.

Mal Meninga

"Otherwise both those gentlemen have contracts with their clubs and they'll need to move on."

And there's the sticking point. Can the clubs, their sponsors, members and fans "move on" and disconnect every bump, lump or loss in 2019 from the coaching upheaval?

The Broncos have three top-eight teams (Storm, Dragons, Roosters) in their opening four games next year.

The Rabbitohs have two  - the Roosters and Dragons.

Crunch time comes in round eight – when the Rabbitohs host the Broncos at ANZ Stadium on Thursday, May 2.

Circle that one in your diaries league lovers!

  

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.