How a stunted at­tack was trans­formed into some­thing spe­cial by a rookie coach

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

AMONG the first things An­thony Seibold did when he took over as South Syd­ney coach was come up with three core prin­ci­ples that have brought the Rab­bitohs’ at­tack back to life.

He called it “start­ing from a blank piece of pa­per”. But words — or prin­ci­ples as Seibold likes to say — quickly be­came at­tached to them. The three core val­ues were: how to cre­ate mo­men­tum; how to ap­ply pres­sure; and then how to cap­i­talise once pres­sure was ap­plied to op­po­si­tion teams.

“I had notes un­der those ar­eas,” Seibold says. “But those were the three prin­ci­ples I wrote down about how we can be more ef­fec­tive in at­tack. I didn’t see any point in com­pli­cat­ing things but they were the prin­ci­ples on how we can cre­ate, ap­ply and cap­i­talise on pres­sure.

“I had a good sit down and had a look at what I would call our game model and what we wanted it to look like. I wanted it to look at how we build pres­sure and play with ef­fort. That was the lan­guage I used with the play­ers and coach­ing staff. We then had a look at what that means for at­tack, de­fence and what it means from tran­si­tion.

“The pre-sea­son was very dif­fer­ent from an at­tack­ing point of view. We had to start form a blank piece of pa­per.”

South Syd­ney never evolved from the power game that brought with it a his­toric 2014 pre­mier­ship. Af­ter fail­ing to make the fi­nals for the past two sea­sons, Seibold in­sti­gated a much-needed shake up.

He said they spent 73 per cent of pre-sea­son train­ing do­ing foot­ball-re­lated drills. Their spine — along with Seibold — did pri­vate coach­ing ses­sions with Matty Johns once a week for seven weeks dur­ing the sum­mer.

Seibold still talks to Johns weekly. Their pre-sea­son fo­cus was about pit­ting against each other with ball in hand.

“We did loads of sce­nario-and sit­u­a­tion-based drills al­ways with footy in hand and al­ways keep­ing the score,” Seibold said. “There was al­ways a com­pe­ti­tion and a clock. We tried to repli­cate game sce­nar­ios. One thing we’ve tried to do is train above game speed. That’s the big­gest dif­fer­ence. We aren’t on the park as long as they have been used to but we are train­ing with a lot more

in­ten­sity. The GPS data is through the roof in com­par­i­son to the pre­vi­ous data.”

Af­ter es­tab­lish­ing his core prin­ci­ples, Seibold went about im­ple­ment­ing his coach­ing philoso­phies. The school­teacher did that by break­ing down the three prin­ci­ples and giv­ing play­ers a di­rect fo­cus.

“We had to strip things back,” he said. “If you start day one of pre-sea­son (say­ing all this), they will look at you blankly. We had to break it down and have a nar­row fo­cus.

“First fo­cus was cre­at­ing quicker play-the-balls to give our halves and our key ball play­ers time. The sec­ond thing was off the back off quick playthe-balls try­ing to get our play­ers in one-on-one or two-ontwo tack­les in­stead of three-onone and we need our halves and ball play­ers to have the hands on the footy more.

“Third was cap­i­talise once we’ve stretched the de­fence. We need to cap­i­talise and shift the ball more.”

Seibold has stayed true to his word with the likes of Cody Walker, Alex John­ston and Damien Cook thriv­ing. Walker is touch­ing the ball a whop­ping 14 more times per game while half­back Adam Reynolds’ touches are up by nine. Fox Sports Lab sta­tis­tics also re­veal the Rab­bitohs are scor­ing five more points per game and have the most line breaks of any club head­ing into round 10.

De­spite be­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous with the foot­ball, the team is com­plet­ing 1 per cent bet­ter than last year.

“I’m com­fort­able with the way we’ve im­proved but I’m not con­tent,” Seibold said. “Like I keep talk­ing to the guys, ‘lit­tle things be­come big things. Keep be­ing mind­ful. If we get loose with any­thing we’re try­ing to do re­gard­ing our stan­dards, then you’ll get what you de­serve on game day’.

“The next area we have to get bet­ter in is be­ing a bit more ruth­less. There have been times we’ve had an op­por­tu­nity to put the foot on the throat.

“We have a big test against the No.1 team the Drag­ons (to­day). They suf­fo­cated us a few weeks ago and we are un­der no il­lu­sion they are the bench­mark.”

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