Broncos probe: Why Seibold is still right man for job
Broncos chairman Karl Morris has hit back at claims the board and chief executive Paul White have lost control of the club as he launched a review into every aspect of Brisbane's $52 million empire.
In the first of a four-part series analysing the demise of an NRL powerhouse, The Courier-Mail can reveal Morris has commissioned a full-scale inquiry into the Broncos' plight.
Morris also launched a passionate defence of club legend Darren Lockyer while White has refused to quit the Broncos following accusations the departing chief is no longer focused on the club.
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The Broncos have plummeted to 15th spot on the NRL ladder on the back of five straight losses which has thrust the pressure on coach Anthony Seibold and the board's decision to rubber stamp a five-year contract for the rookie mentor.
The Broncos have come under fire from all corners, with club legends Gorden Tallis and Steve Renouf along with founder Barry Maranta savaging Brisbane's highly-paid leadership and calling for change at Red Hill.
But that will not be happening in the short-term, with Morris standing staunchly in his defence of Seibold and the people who put him in charge of the NRL's richest club.
"When the team is losing, everyone wants to blame the board, the CEO and the coach and when the team is winning the players get all the credit," Morris said.
"That's life, but of course the board is working hard to fix this. There is never a moment that we aren't trying to make sure that we have the right people in the right spots doing the right things. We are currently reviewing every structure of the club."
The Broncos' board comprises some of the sharpest minds in Queensland including multi-millionaire stockbroker Morris, Brisbane markets king Tony Joseph, league legend Lockyer, News Corp appointee Neil Monaghan and Australian netball legend Vicki Wilson, who recently replaced Katie Bickford.
News Corp, publishers of The Courier-Mail and the Broncos' major shareholder, wanted Morris to provide a fresh lens from outside the game when he took over from Dennis Watt in late 2017.
One of Morris' first tasks was to assess coach Wayne Bennett's future at the club.
Bennett was sacked a year later following a messy saga which included a bitter falling out with White, the divorce ultimately ending the seven-time premiership winner's association with the Broncos.
White launched a poaching raid on Melbourne maestro Craig Bellamy to succeed Bennett but failed to land the Storm super coach.
Instead, Seibold was awarded the job, on a four-year contract with an option for a fifth season in Brisbane's favour, after piloting South Sydney to the 2018 NRL preliminary finals in his first year as a head coach.
The decision to overlook Broncos legend Kevin Walters and Bennett's deputy Jason Demetriou for the head coach's role and deliver Seibold a club record tenure raised eyebrows across the game.
The Broncos finished eighth in 2019 and were bundled out of the finals in a record 58-0 loss to Parramatta.
They won their first two games of the 2020 season before returning from the COVID shutdown in terrible form, suffering five straight losses including a new club record 59-0 defeat to the Roosters.
Bennett had a 64 per cent winning record at the Broncos when he was sacked. As it stands, Seibold has won 42 per cent of matches since taking over the club.
The spotlight has been thrust firmly on Seibold but Morris is adamant the board made the right decision to appoint him to a long-term deal.
"Stability was absolutely the reason for it - that is why I have come out so strong in recent days in support of Anthony," he said.
"When you give someone a five-year deal, you are saying to them that you believe they have a long-term future with the club. They have to make some long-term changes.
"He's a rookie NRL coach, but not a rookie in coaching. He was impressive in the interviews.
"There were three serious contenders and all three could have done the job, but Anthony was certainly a standout in everyone's view, he was the choice for the club for the medium to long-term.
"Anthony had to move cities, he had to move his family, it's a big commitment from him as well. People lose sight of the human element, we are dealing with people's lives here. When things are written in the paper, family and friends read it, it takes a toll on the coach and the players."
LOCKY THE LEGEND
Lockyer, 43, is the Broncos' greatest-ever servant, having amassed a club record 355 games for Brisbane over 17 seasons.
He has been a long-term board member and part of Brisbane's recruitment and retention committee which oversees the club's player roster management.
Lockyer was part of the panel which interviewed the coaching candidates and settled on Seibold. He has also been employed by Brisbane to conduct leadership training with the young group of players.
Former captain Tallis has been critical of Lockyer's input at the Broncos, but Morris said he was not immune from criticism at Red Hill.
"No, Darren is not a protected species," he said.
"Rugby league is a brutal sport. No one is protected here.
"Darren is a legend of this club and he understands the culture of this club, but Darren is not the only one we are looking to.
"Darren has an elevated role because he is on the board and doing leadership work with the players, but he is far from alone in his contributions to the club. We have Allan Langer and Corey Parker on the coaching staff and we have five ex-captains with roles at the club.
"We do a presentation of our recruitment and playing list at every meeting. The club has a recruitment and retention committee which involves the CEO and the coach. They are the ones who determine the player list.
"That is not a board role. We do test them, when they present to us, we don't just sit there, we ask questions and make comments on it, but the board has a very defined role."
During White's decade as CEO, the Broncos have grown into a $52 million powerhouse and now call a $27 million headquarters at Red Hill home.
They are the NRL's richest franchise, regularly posting yearly profits in excess of $2 million and leading the code for sponsorship and membership numbers.
But the Broncos have failed on the field by their lofty standards and are mired in a 14-year premiership drought, the longest in the club's illustrious history.
White will exit the club in the coming months and has been linked to roles at the NRL and Rugby Australia, drawing criticism about his commitment to the Broncos.
But the former country cop has refused to step down immediately and insists he will guide the Broncos back to greatness.
"I remain committed to the job," White said.
"I made my decision in October last year for the right reasons, to give the club enough notice to handover to an incoming CEO in a timely way.
"I've also indicated to the board if that process goes a little longer I'm happy to remain there until they can recruit and induct a new CEO. I'm still totally committed to the club.
"You don't spend 10 years at the Broncos and not become emotionally invested in the organisation.
"When my time comes to handover to a new and incoming CEO I will do it with the knowledge I worked as hard on my last day as I did on my first. If people make a comment about me not being 100 per cent committed they just don't know me."
White's executive, which boasts some of the NRL's most inflated salaries, will come under the microscope during Morris' review.
White pocketed $800,000 last year and fell just short of $1 million in 2017 when the Broncos finished in the top four - earning him a $250,000 bonus.
The club recently parted ways with chief strategy officer Terry Reader, White's second-in-charge who earned $300,000 in his final year at the Broncos.
Throw in football manager Peter Nolan's $280,000 package, part-time salary cap manager Louise Lanigan's $187,000 among other high-ranking executives and the Broncos' brains trust balloons to over $2 million-a-year.
Every dollar spent by the Broncos will now be reviewed by the meticulous Morris.
"When you go through a rough trot you're entitled to view every element of the business," White said. "The focus in the short-term is to start winning some games of footy and review how we can better support our footy program to future proof it.
"When you go through these tough times, as hard as it is, it also provides a good opportunity if you take advantage of that. Any time we sit down as a board and executive and review things, that's good governance and what we should be doing."
Originally published as Broncos probe: Why Seibold is still right man for job