There are some things to like about Seibold, some things to be optimistic about, and some context to his pervious coaching stint, in my view. Time for my first 2023 essay! Buckle up - I has wine
Things to like:
He has worked to galvansie the squad - reacted to the challenge at hand, namely rumours of squad divided after Pride. Inherited a strong squad with some very promising youth.
Pride impact - cmon...we know it killed our 2022
Manly will deny the Pride-jersey saga impacted last season. That is absolute bull****. I posted at the time I could see them lose every game for the rest of the season after that, and it happened (much to my disappointment). It ended their season - and it still hurts. We were going OK without Tom up until then, but this turned us back into that 1-trick Pony everyone thought we were. Saw enough in that brief pre-Pride period though to have confidence that we are no longer a 1-man band. Just need to believe it.
And Josh Aloiai & the ongoing Pride impact?
Watch the recent Aloiai interview this week, and his demeanour changes noticeably when they bring it up "no-one is talking about it anymore, only you guys (media) are". He's not done with his part in it yet.
Sorry mate, accept that is the bat they will continue to beat us with, and you gotta wear it along with the rest of the team - it creates their clickbait stories. Josh is a credible spokesman (surprisingly - but it explains his leadership status i guess). His body-language control showed that he absolutely HATES questions/statements about Pride Jersey, it immediately changes his disposition. He is not remoreseful as he honestly believes his reaction (and influence to the rest of the team) was on-point. Josh knows the influential role he played in that, and you only have to watch the other Josh (Schuster) interview to see the gulf in self-expression between the two, and by extension the younger players that look up to Josh for thought-leadership. Of course they will listen to him! He is actually a very eloquent and clever guy.
Message to Josh-A - time to let your actions speak mate. I think you talk the talk pretty good (compliment intended), and that's awesome - but If you're the pack leader we all want you to be, you gotta walk the walk dude (and stay on the field a bit more while you're at it...)
Management impact from Pride:
NRL players are not equipped to be ambassadors of complex issues they may not even agree with - and the Manly front-office should have fronted that with a 'my bad'. But they didn't. They sent out Des and Daly (who handled it impeccably given the cicumstances) and hid in the closet. Cowards. Bad decision, Bad look, Bad pulse-check. **** Leadership. The CEO letter this week was - in my view - an attempt to reset the bar on a perception of weak leadership at the club. Mestrov has his work cut out for him, and I wish him luck as he needs it.
How would Seibold deal with this level of adversity though?
Seibold Track Record - park the rose-tinted goggles:
Rewind back to 2019 and first-year Seibold at Broncs is struggling - 2-6 and its not even origin time! Some of the worst defeats in club history. But he had them make the final 8 ultimately (where they were admitedly minced by the Eels 58-0, an embarassing record-loss at finals level - would been better for them to not make it to finals at all imo). That set them up for 2020....
2020 and they start well 2 games, 2 impressive wins - but then Covid hits, and then all of a sudden they get 6 losses in a row, and eventually end up with the spoon. Seibold floundered with that level of adversity, and lost the room. You could write that off as an unprecendented exception...maybe. Would he have handled "Pride Jerseygate" better? Fact is other clubs struggled with the Covid disruption too, but only the Broncos got the spoon - a year after making the finals.
Seibold talks a good game. So did Barrett though - to the point it got him another gig after the debacle that was his Manly tenure. I'm guarded against smooth talkers, actions speak, and smooth talkers have smooth excuses that accompany failure. Trent showed us that, and the Bulldogs tenure vindicated it.
So now its 2023, its Seibold, Dymock, Flanagan - and hype in abundance. They have a different media approach (media is scum - and Des treated them as such which I loved - but maybe that put unnecessary pressure on club/players who believed the **** they would read from pond-scum like Rothfield, Kent and their ilk).
Seibold talks a good game, I can't deny that - he worked at Fox after all and has the connections. The players are speaking about off-field unity and galvanising around "The Brotherhood" - so far so good, messaging on-point.
So are we...."On Track??"
They have won a pre-season comp against credible opposition (whats your excuse Canberra...) - teams that are expected to be major players in 2023 - and pocketed $100k to boot. Nice feels.
Seibold's measure of coaching will come from how he handles crisis. It will come - whether by injury, circumstance, luck or otherwise. Covid-year he lost the room in Brisbane - I think the Flanagan influence is maybe an insurance policy against that. Guy has some experience dealing with crisis. Dymock is the answer to a potential Pride repeat, as a credible voice to the demographic so impacted by the poor pride decisions. You can't fault the choices at Manly to address the obvious shortcomings of seasons past - at the very least it shows we are learning!
What I see from the team is a group much more well versed to tow the company line, and say what is expected of them to the media (just can't wait to play footy, doin' it for the boys, after preseason we're so tight). Seibold understands the unnecessary pressures external/Media influences can produce on young, impressionable players. He is currently taking that out of the equation (or at least mitigating it somewhat). Clever ploy, and that is the biggest upgrade Seibold gives over Des, in my view.
So...break out the bubbly?? March Premiers!
If Manly's season goes perfectly and we become the NRL and media darlings of over-achievement, Seibold's strategy will work a treat. It's if we get dragged down into trench-warfare, with injuries galore and players' hands on hips, that I have my doubts - and where I look at Des with nostaligic hope and more confidence - say what you like about Des, but more often than not he turned adversity into a power source. It wasn't fool-proof - but bugger me it was impressive at times.
Seibold is impressive in a different way to Des, but I still think Des understands the Manly DNA better - and Seibold is going to have to prove me wrong on that.
So.....will we win the comp?
It would take an overachievement of epic proportions. Would hate to rule it out as egg-yolk stains my eyebrows, but a season of unity and consistency would be as good as a premiership, and with our juniors it would set us up for some solid years ahead. "Dynasty" is a word with great expectation, but we have watched other teams and their 'Dynasties' for too long now. Teams near the top stay near the top as they build an 'Aura' of destiny. The same teams make the finals year after year, some dip in and out (like us) and others rarely feature in any significant way (ie past week-1 of finals). We used to be the mainstay finals players, and have dropped to dip-in-and-out. This influences refs too, im convinced of that - who is 'meant to win' type of attitude.
And Seibold Today??
Let's hope Seibold has developed himself from what he learned out of the Broncs, from Eddie Jones, and as a Fox strategic talking head - he woulda seen a lot of games in that role. An edge combo of Tuiliagi and Haumole is up there (if not better) than what he had at the Broncos, and they were hyped as THE young pack of the next generation. Yes, we could def pick up a handy Prop - but our biggest challenge has been the 9 for a while now. I'm getting a good feel about our prospects there now however, with GCKT showing his wares. Impressive!
Our backline is starting to show depth the likes of which we haven't had since the golden era - Seibold's task is to give opportunity which Des never did to upcoming talent & youth on merit of performance not reputation, and create a loyalty proposition in contracts ala the Roosters/Storm/Panthers (and to a lesser extent Souths), where players will take unders to fit into a superior system so they can learn how to win and experience a winning culture. We didn't go to market coz we didn't have to - and that pleases me more than signing up speculators on overs.
What we lost in the Barrett era was our Aura as a top-shelf club. And that is what Seibold has to re-instate. Des couldn't re-ignite our glory of his previous stint - maybe he never was empowered to. Maybe he coudn't re-apply his template of success in the decade from the mid 2000's. And maybe that ship modernised itself, and sailed without him.
Expectations are high, don't Fk it up Anthony. We are a club built on achievement, and failure is just not in the club DNA.
I'll go back into my hidey hole now.