Before Anthony Seibold arrived at Pennyhill Park late last year to join Eddie Jones’ England national rugby side, he boarded his flight with two lingering thoughts.
“I’m Australian and I’m from rugby league,” Seibold told foxsports.com.au over coffee on Sydney’s northern beaches after arriving home from their recent Six Nations campaign.
But it wasn’t just that he was from rugby league.
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Only a year earlier Seibold had been “embarrassed” after “failing” at the Brisbane Broncos, which culminated in the vastly experienced coach parting ways less than two years into a mega five-year contract, which had a sixth year on top of it.
“I was challenged and struggled because I was embarrassed by failing up there,” the 2018 Dally M coach of the year said.
“There’s so many things that went down that I look back on and reflect on.
“I regret leaving South Sydney.
“I made a business decision. I didn’t make a decision with my heart, I made a decision with my head and it went pear shaped.
“There’s a lot of reasons for that, but I’ve got to hold my hand up because, ultimately, I’m the main reason it went pear shaped.
“I regret some things about leaving South Sydney, I would do some things differently.
“I would do some things differently, I would do some things the same at the Broncos.”
As Seibold prepared to touchdown, he realised England’s squad included a number of players who watched the NRL, including captain Owen Farrell, whose father Andy was a dual international.
It wasn’t long before his trepidations were put to rest, as a series of zoom calls with senior leaders, including Farrell, helped break the ice.
“I was a bit vulnerable,” he said.
“I wanted to introduce myself, give a bit of background, have a chat, not talk about rugby, but say this is where I’ve been; I’ve had some success, some failures and was just vulnerable. I’m Australian and I’m from league.
“But from the minute I walked in there, the players were craving to be coached.
“They had a great attitude, a real growth mindset, they wanted feedback; what I found was they just wanted to know that I care about them and that I can help them be better players. I’ve loved it, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been an outstanding experience.”
How Seibold ended up in England is yet another case of life’s great sliding doors moments.
The last time Jones’ England ventured Down Under in 2016, Seibold was deep inside Queensland Origin camp.
Alongside Kevin Walters, who has since taken over the Broncos, Seibold helped the Maroons to a 2-1 series victory.
Meanwhile, Jones, with Seibold watching with interest from afar, popped Michael Cheika’s Wallabies bubble by winning in Australia by claiming a 3-0 series victory.
Later in 2016, Seibold met Jones, a Rabbitohs tragic, in Coogee for the first time.
The meeting would start a relationship, which grew stronger with each passing year.
“We had about three or four hours together, did a lot of shared learning, so it was right at the beginning of the pre-season at Souths, so I sort of shared what I was trying to do to improve the club,” Seibold recalled.
“We had finished 12th two years in a row, so we changed up the way we were preparing and the way we wanted to play our footy.
“And Eddie loves league, he loves to see what he can take back from league to rugby union.
“From that long conversation we always stayed in touch and obviously we had a great deal of success that year at South Sydney, so Eddie was continually reaching out and asking ‘What did you do here? What are you seeing there?’
“We went from a team that finished 11th for points scored in the comp to the team that scored the most points, we were in the top four defensively that year as well, so we were doing a lot of things right and Eddie was looking at what we were doing.”
Even after Seibold’s controversial arrival at the Broncos, and even more talked about departure, there was one constant in his corner: Jones.
Within a fortnight of Seibold’s messy departure from the fallen NRL powerhouse, Jones had reached out and tasked him with a series of projects.
“Essentially what I did for about 12 months was look at their games, as if you were attacking against the opposition in rugby league,” Seibold said.
“So playing Ireland, how would you attack them in rugby league, or playing Wales or whoever, so I did that and sent him some reports.
“Because I wasn’t in the coaches meetings or working day to day with the players, it was almost like a set of eyes outside the group and watching it with a different perspective.
“I think over that period of time, Eddie enjoyed the conversations and probably enjoyed someone looking at it from a different perspective.”
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It was not long until Jones reached out again, albeit this time it was with the invitation to jump on-board full-time.
Seibold, who rediscovered his “love of coaching and rugby league” working with Adam O’Brien as a coaching consultant, jumped on the offer.
In his first November campaign, England beat the Wallabies and snuck home against the world champion Springboks.
Their Six Nations campaign was not quite as successful, with Jones’ position once again coming under scrutiny while Seibold’s appointment too was questioned from an English audience that demands results.
Yet, Seibold has loved the experience.
“We’ve had five games at Twickenham, all 82,000 sell outs,” he says.
“Pulling up on the bus before the game, it’s something different, It’s mind-blowing.
“The thing that blew me away was when we played in Paris and France were going for the grand slam, which they hadn’t won for 12 years, and they needed to beat us to win the grand slam.
“I reckon when I went out for a warm-up there were already 60,00 people there for the warm-up 30 minutes before the game singing and chanting and, mate, that atmosphere in Paris, I’m talking Origin, grand finals, I’ve never seen or heard anything like it and it gives you a snapshot of what the World Cup will be like.”
Seibold will next wear an English tracksuit for a fortnight in June, before Jones’ side return Down Under for another three-match Test series six years after doing a number on the Wallabies.
Would he have ever imagined doing so in 2016 when he was Walters’ assistant with the Maroons?
“No, mate. I wouldn’t have laughed, but it was never on the radar,” Seibold says.
“But things happen for a reason.”
It is why Seibold won’t rule out a return to the NRL.
For now though, he is just enjoying the ride.
“I feel very blessed,” he said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best coaches.
“I talk about Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm, loved it, working with him and Frank Ponissi, I learnt more about coaching and rugby league than I ever had and I’d been involved since I was six or seven.
“Also working with the players like Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, it was incredible.
“Then I had the opportunity to work with the Queensland Origin side as an assistant coach, so I’ve had some really good experiences and then I’ve had some really shit experiences.
“Ultimately, I had a six-year deal with the Broncos and I finished up halfway through the second year.
“But you learn more from your failures than you do in the good times, so for someone like Eddie to continually keep in touch and value myself as a coach, because I feel like I’m a good coach and I’ve showed that over a long period of time, I had a really challenging and unforgiving time at the Broncos, but you learn plenty.
“I feel very blessed that Eddie values me as a coach and I’m working in a set-up that is second to none.”