COMMENT by Steve Ricketts, former Chief Rugby League Writer, The Courier-Mail.
ANTHONY SEIBOLD. IS HE THE MAN?
Kevin Walters remains my first choice to take over from Wayne Bennett as Broncos’ coach, but Anthony Seibold will handle the pressure that comes with the biggest club job in the National Rugby League.
Seibold, like Broncos’ chief executive, Paul White, is a Rockhampton boy, steeped in rugby league history and culture.
Seibold has played for the Broncos, in the lower grades, and worked at arguably the most professional club in the code, Melbourne Storm.
He also has had to battle away at a fledgling rugby league club, the Celtic Crusaders, from Wales, where he was assistant to another former Broncos’ coaching staff member, John Dixon.
Dixon and Seibold guided the Crusaders from the British Championship, to Super League.
I remember interviewing Seibold and Dixon when the Crusaders held a pre-season training camp in Australia. They chose the Griffith University campus at Nathan in Brisbane to conduct their sessions, and they were grateful for the coverage we gave the camp in The Courier-Mail. (2018 Super League grand final winner, Wigan’s ‘mad’ Welshman, Ben Flower, was one of the Crusaders).
Seibold is an accomplished media performer, and has not forgotten his roots. For instance, he always makes himself available to Radio TAB’s morning sports program, where he knows his views will get an airing across regional Queensland.
I sense he will bring a ‘new age’ style of training to the Broncos, but, as many former Broncos’ greats have pointed out, his choice ahead of Walters is a missed opportunity, in terms of healing some of the rifts that have seemingly developed between the current club set-up and the ‘old boys’.
And, let’s face it. It would have been the feel good story, to bring back ‘Kevvie’. Seibold’s appointment is the corporate ‘due diligence’ story.
Whenever the NRL season draw is announced, the first thing I do is look at round 1 and the crowd drawing potential of each game.
The first round counts for so much. Get off on the right foot, and it can lay the foundation for a successful season.
So, have the power brokers got it right?
Let’s go through the games, with my attendance figure predictions.
THURSDAY, MARCH 14
STORM V BRONCOS, MELBOURNE.
Full marks here. When these clubs meet, it has an Origin feel. The Storm is the ‘second’ club for many Queenslanders. Crowd 18,000
FRIDAY, MARCH 15.
NEWCASTLE v CRONULLA, NEWCASTLE.
Fans from the Hunter Valley will be hungry for league action, so it doesn’t matter who Newcastle play. There won’t be much room in the stadium by kick-off. Crowd 22,000.
ROOSTERS v RABBITOHS, SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND.
Easts and Souths played many classic matches at the SCG ‘back in the day’. I went to the 1971 grand final between these clubs, at a packed SCG, and it remains of the great games. Crowd that day: 63,000. Round 1, 2019: 30,000.
SATURDAY, MARCH 16.
WARRIORS v BULLDOGS, MOUNT SMART STADIUM, AUCKLAND.
Hopefully, the Warriors’ backroom staff have worked on harnessing the Tongan ‘red army’ during the off-season. The Warriors have yet to win a title, and they need that trophy to finally realise their potential, in terms of crowds and merchandise sales. Crowd 13,000.
WESTS TIGERS V MANLY, LEICHHARDT OVAL.
The fans of both clubs have every reason to be disillusioned, given the coaching dramas of last season. But, Leichhardt will look great, with a sea of yellow. Crowd 16,000.
NORTH QUEENSLAND V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA, TOWNSVILLE.
No Johnathan Thurston for the Cowboys. Who knows how that will work out. Always risky giving the Cowboys home game in cyclone season, and yet, they have four home games in the first five weeks! Crowd 14,000.
SUNDAY, MARCH 17
PENRITH V PARRAMATTA, PENRITH.
Western Sydney derby, which rates in Sydney, but not so much here in Queensland. Crowd 18,000.
GOLD COAST TITANS V CANBERRA RAIDERS, ROBINA.
On St Patrick’s Day, the green machine from Canberra face a tough first up road trip, and they will be in for warm welcome from their giant former prop, Shannon Boyd. Crowd 14,000.
Crowd total: 145,000. Average: 18,000 (approx). Just a pass mark, but the NRL will be happy to finish the season with an 18,000 crowd average across the board. It’s a long way behind the AFL, and marginally in front of the A League.
But, when comparing crowds against previous eras in league, those figures stack up OK, believe it or not. Some people romanticise about crowds in the ‘old days’, partly because of the Match of the Day attendances at the SCG, and, in Brisbane, Lang Park.
Photo: Geoff Carr (St George) evades John Rhodes (Canterbury) at the SCG in the 1970s.