Why walking in Bennett's shadow has proved so hard

If Wayne Bennett’s Rabbitohs can defeat his former Brisbane team on Thursday night it will officially be the worst start to a Broncos season since Ivan Henjak was coach.

The statistic highlights how difficult it is to be the coach following Bennett, as Henjak, Steve Price and Rick Stone all found and Anthony Seibold is discovering this season.

It's like trying to replace Alex Ferguson at Manchester United or Steve Jobs at Apple.

Brisbane’s 29-6 win over a Cronulla side devastated by injuries before and during last Saturday night’s match at Suncorp Stadium was just the second time the Broncos have sung their victory song since Seibold took over from Bennett in acrimonious circumstances last December.

Should they lose to South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night, Brisbane’s start to their second post-Bennett era will equal the six losses they suffered under Henjak in the opening eight rounds of the 2010 season.

Henjak, who had replaced Bennett the year before, was sacked after the Broncos failed to recover from their poor start to the 2010 season and missed the finals for the first time since 1991.

Price suffered a similar fate midway through the 2014 season after taking over the St George Illawarra job when Bennett left to coach Newcastle in 2012.

Stone, who was Bennett’s successor at the Knights, only lasted 18 matches in 2015 before being replaced by Danny Buderus, with Nathan Brown taking charge from 2016.

Stone began well, with the Knights winning their first four matches under his coaching before losing 11 of the next 12 games and he was eventually sacked after a 52-6 loss to Souths.

Price also had a good start to his NRL coaching career, with the Dragons winning five of their opening eight matches after the departure of Bennett but they missed the finals and finished 14th in 2013.

Seibold appointed, not anointed

In contrast, Seibold’s winning record in his first seven games at Brisbane is just 28.6 per cent as the Broncos try to adapt to his coaching style.

Unlike Henjak, Price and Stone, Seibold was appointed by Brisbane after the club decided to move on from Bennett, whereas the other three were all anointed by the seven-time premiership-winning mentor to be his successor following his decision to leave each job.

As a result, Henjak, Price and Stone were more likely to continue on the path Bennett had set for the team.

One of the keys to Bennett’s success is the simplicity of his coaching. Bennett ensures that his players understand their roles and what he requires of them.

A rival coach who recruited a player from the Broncos described him as “virtually uncoached” but players always want to perform for Bennett.

The 69-year-old doesn't complicate training or game plans and is a renowned man-manager whose success ensures players believe in his methods.

After being effectively poached by the Broncos to replace Bennett, there would be an expectation that Seibold needs to introduce new methods and ideas at Brisbane to set him apart from the man who has had more influence on the club than anyone.

In 631 matches at Brisbane’s helm over 25 years, from 1988 to 2008 and 2015 to 2018, Bennett boasts a winning record of 63.7 per cent and he took the club to 23 finals series, winning six premierships.

In Bennett’s second stint as Brisbane coach, the club made the 2015 grand final and finished fifth, third and sixth in the subsequent three seasons.

Bettering those results is a tall order for any coach but the Broncos have not won a premiership since 2006 and Seibold – the 2018 coach of the year - will now be expected to deliver the club’s next title before the completion of his five-year contract.

Seibold inherited a roster regarded as one of the most talented in the NRL but he is now seeking to shape it into his team by making changes to Brisbane's playing personnel. 

Like following Ferguson or Jobs

The only coach in world sport with a record comparable to Bennett is Alex Ferguson, who was manager at Manchester United for 26 years and took the club to 13 Premier League titles.

Since Ferguson left Old Trafford in 2013, Manchester United have had four managers and despite their reputations neither David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho were able to achieve success, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has only been in the job for four months.

Outside sport, the sacking of Apple founder Steve Jobs in 1985 almost led to the collapse of the company, with shares dipping below US$2.

Apple went through three CEOs before Jobs was lured back in 1997 as chief executive and oversaw a turnaround in the company’s fortunes which resulted in the share price exceeding US$220.

John Sculley, the Apple chief executive from 1983 to 1993 who was behind the decision to sack Jobs after falling out with him, was later ranked as the 14th worst American CEO of all time by Condé Nast Portfolio.

Jobs revitalised Apple upon his return by introducing the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

Since the departure of Jobs six weeks before his death in 2011, the company's most revolutionary product has been the Apple Watch but it hasn't had the impact of the iPhone and rivals are catching up with the tech pioneer.

Similarly, the Broncos are not the same without Bennett in charge and it remains to be seen if Seibold can achieve the success the club craves or will suffer the same fate as Henjak, Price and Stone.