Trusted deputy felt helpless as ‘pressure ate Seibs up’
Broncos caretaker Peter Gentle has revealed his fallen head coach, Anthony Seibold, was 'eaten up' by the club's year from hell as the Broncos return to the 'horrible' scene of last year's Bankwest massacre.
In his most candid interview on the worst season in Broncos history, Gentle opened up about Seibold's demise and his shock elevation to Brisbane's hotseat ahead of their showdown with finals nemesis Parramatta on Friday night.
It is exactly a year since assistant Gentle sat beside a shellshocked Seibold in the coaching box as they watched the Eels destroy Brisbane's 2019 season with a 58-0 playoffs drubbing at Parramatta's Bankwest Fortress.
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Now, a month after Seibold fell on his sword, Gentle is the main man at the Broncos. It is a position the 54-year-old never coveted, but Gentle has won admirers with his honesty and the simplified game plan that has restored some credibility to Brisbane's performances.
"I will probably look back at this time in years to come and think, 'God, what on earth happened?'" Gentle said. "It's been a crazy time."
Gentle will never forget the pain of Sunday, September 15, 2019. It was the day Parramatta tore the Broncos apart with a 58-0 caning in the opening week of the finals. At that point, it was the worst loss in Brisbane's proud history, since surpassed by a 59-0 loss to the Roosters this season.
Now Gentle leads seven Broncos survivors, including skipper Alex Glenn and retiring veteran Darius Boyd, back to Bankwest.
"It was horrible," he says.
"I felt the same way as any Broncos fan or anyone associated with the club. It was so hard to watch.
"I never saw that loss coming. We had high hopes of beating Parramatta that day. As coaches, you usually get a smell if something isn't right in your preparation but there was no sign of that.
"Midway through the second half, we were just hoping the clock would wind down.
"I felt helpless in the coaching box. Just watching it happen and not being to stop it at all, we were pretty much just willing full-time to come.
"We don't want that to happen again. This time, I want the guys to compete on every play - the Broncos fans and members deserve that."
Humble by nature, Gentle has built a solid coaching resume. He worked with Tim Sheens at the Tigers and in Australian teams, has mentored the likes of Benji Marshall and Scott Prince and led Hull FC to the Challenge Cup final in 2013 during his two years in England.
But Gentle, who played three first-grade games for St George in 1987-88, admits he never envisaged life on the Broncos coaching throne once dominated by Wayne Bennett.
"To be honest, this is the last thing I wanted to be doing," he said.
"But I have great respect for the club and the fans and I've tried to simplify our game to bring some enjoyment back for the players.
"It's all happened so fast. I will never forget coming to Brisbane (two years ago). It was a Sunday afternoon, I came home at 4.30pm after a relaxing day out on my boat and 'Seibs' (Seibold) rang me and said, 'We're on a flight in the morning. It's all sorted. We're going to Brisbane'.
"I arrived here with a backpack and we were on the field training 24 hours later with the Broncos at Purtell Park. I sold my boat. I then went home for Christmas and packed everything up and had to find accommodation up here.
"It's been a whirlwind two years."
THE SEIBOLD SAGA
Broncos bosses were confident Seibold could deliver the club's seventh premiership. Seibold resigned last month after a nightmare 20-month stint which culminated in savage social-media rumours about his private life.
Few people in rugby league are as close to Seibold as his trusted deputy Gentle.
"I really felt for Seibs," he said.
"I could just see Seibs getting eaten up by it, all the pressure was consuming him in the end.
"When he had his two weeks off outside the COVID bubble, I told Seibs to get away completely and come bouncing back in.
"There was a point during those two weeks where he thought why do I need to go back and do this to myself?
"It's not good for anyone's health what he was going through, especially with all the rumours that were going on in the background. We are all human and no-one likes to hear so many negative things about themselves.
"It was just the culmination of everything. The trolls, the scrutiny, the media, some of the stuff that was coming out was so far fetched and hurtful. We are all big tough guys in the NRL but eventually you can hit a nerve.
"I'm glad he is looking after himself and his family."
Gentle is contracted to the Broncos for another 12 months and hopes to remain at the club. But he is adamant he won't be formally applying for the head-coaching post coveted by Kevin Walters and Paul Green.
"My time in England convinced me I didn't want to be a head coach," he said.
"I just feel as a head coach, you get pulled away worrying about too many other things. I love the hands-on day to day stuff with coaching. I'm not chasing a profile, I just want to see players get better individually and share my experiences with them. To me, that's much more satisfying. I know the big dollars come with head coaching, but there is a lot of peripheral work which I don't enjoy.
"I honestly don't know what the future holds. I would like to stay. I have had two years with the Broncos guys and I think I know what makes them tick. I've got 12 months to go but it will be up to the coach who comes in.
"I understand how this game works. If I have to pack up my bags and move on, I will be disappointed, but that's rugby league coaching."
Gentle believes Broncos players may have struggled with the tactical shift from Bennett to Seibold.
"Things just haven't worked," he said.
"Maybe the transition from Wayne to Seibs was too big a change. They have completely different coaching styles. It took the guys a long time to get used to training above game speed.
"A club has to get the right coach for the right group and sometimes there's just not that connection or a squad can't play the way you want.
"That's not a shot at this current group, but the contrasting coaching methods may have played a part."
Originally published as Trusted deputy felt helpless as 'pressure ate Seibs up'