Anthony Seibold is a shoo-in to be coach of the year in 2018. Mark his name down now.
What Anthony has done with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in his first year as a head coach is remarkable, but I am not surprised.
Any playing group has to respect the coach and what they bring to the party to be a success. Wayne Bennett always had our respect first and foremost at the Broncos, and you see that with Anthony.
He was at the Broncos in the lower grades in the 1990s and one thing that always stood out about Seibs, as I call him, was the high regard he was held in from everyone at the club, and his intelligence. We all loved to hang out with him and it was clear he had a great appreciation for the game.
He went on to become a teacher and university lecturer and you can see now when he speaks in the media that he is one of the most eloquent and thoughtful coaches getting around.
All of that doesn't mean you are going to be a great coach, but Anthony has done a long apprenticeship as a Queensland Cup coach, in the UK and as an assistant under Craig Bellamy and Michael Maguire. He played under Bennett and has acquired a lot of knowledge over time, and while I am not in the inner sanctum at South Sydney I've seen the impact he has had on players at all levels of their development.
Let's start with five-eighth Cody Walker, who has always been a player of promise but failed to live up to it in the early years. Under Anthony's guidance Walker has thrived, and he's doing it each week. He is playing with confidence and control and picking his marks. He's not overplaying his hand.
Angus Crichton has come from a rugby background and is now an Origin player. We knew at the start of the year he was a forward of immense ability but his development has skyrocketed this year and he's made the transition into a top-line player. He's going to the Roosters next year but he hasn't been distracted by that. A good coach gets players to focus on the here and now and Anthony once again has obviously worked his magic there.
Damien Cook was another promising talent at the start of the season, but he will be the Australian Test hooker at the end of the year. Adam Reynolds has revitalised his career this season. Everywhere you look there is improvement in the playing group.
Tom and George Burgess I thought were a bit off last year but the coach has got the best out of them and they are powering.
That is not always an easy assignment for a coach with established players.
Anthony was a solid player in his day but the Burgess boys, internationals and premiership winners, would have done their history on him as a rookie coach and would know he played lower grades for the Broncos before getting his start at Canberra.
They have obviously realised quickly that he knows what he's talking about and the fruits are there for all to see. Bennett used to have a simple message for front-rowers and got the best out of them as a result. Seibs clearly has given the Burgess lads a clear and concise task and has them playing the sort of footy that won Souths a grand final in 2014.
When you take over at a club with so much history like Souths there is a lot of pressure that goes with it. After winning the premiership four years ago they failed to back it up but Anthony has turned them into a premiership force in his first year.
They had a sketchy start this year but he didn't panic. He stuck to what he believed in and now they've won nine in a row and they are winning them with power and flair. They are a threat everywhere you look across the park.
I've listened to Greg Inglis speak about Anthony and it is always with great respect. GI is another player who has found a new lease on life this season and we saw that transfer into the Origin arena until he got injured. This break was not what he wanted but he will come back refreshed ahead of the finals.
Souths have forgotten how to lose and they are playing with hunger. That has to be built into a side and it can be easily lost as we've seen with the Cowboys this year. Winning has become a habit for Souths and that is something you learn, and the Rabbitohs are quick learners. Mark that down to the coach, one of the most learned men in the game. Why I'm seeing now is what I saw 25 years ago. Seibs is the cool and calm character he was at the Broncos, and he still commands the same respect.