By STEVE MASCORD
“Pfffft!” You can almost picture Anthony Seibold, the current Melbourne Storm Under 20s coach, rolling his eyes as he read our first Men Of The World feature a couple of months back.
If you’ll remember, Dustin Cooper told us how he started out in Australia before rugby league took him to France and to the United States. Cooper spoke passionately about the opportunities the game can give young men to see the world – an aspect of a playing career in our game that is not often highlighted.
This monthly feature is not intended to be a contest – but if it was, we could hand over the gold medal right now to A Seibold. He’s got everyone I’ve ever met covered.
“I was an elite junior in both cricket and rugby league,” Anthony tells us the day after a Storm home game recently.
“I chose rugby league, I was recruited by the great Cyril Connell and I left St Brendan’s Yeppoon to join the Brisbane Broncos.
“This was up 1992 to 1995. I captained the Under 21s, played reserve grade, never played first grade but that was a great era for the Broncos. I’d look around my reserve grade team and there were fellows like Paul Hauff and Gavin Allen and Mark Hohn out there.”
Then his wanderlust kicked in. The call came from St Esteve in France and he took it. “I was right out of my comfort zone in France but it was a great life experience,” he recalls.
Injury intervened, Anthony returned to Australia and joined Brisbane Wests in a stint that included a clash at Port Moresby’s famous Robson Oval. His association with Gary Grienke would soon lead to another odyssey – in Canberra for 1997 and 1998.
“I had been a promising kid who couldn’t make first grade in Brisbane while they were winning all those comps,” he said.
“After going to France, coming back, playing in the Q Cup – I finally made first grade and played a fair bit of it down there in Canberra alongside some great players .”
Our hero met his wife in Australia’s national capital and could easily have pulled up stumps when it came to his rugby league escapades. Some people form attachments to familiar smells, sights and sounds and eschew opportunities elsewhere out of fear.
It’s fair to say Anthony Seibold is not one of those people.
“London Broncos had suffered a few injuries and the call came to go and have a go at Super League under Dan Stains,” he recalls with relish.
“I was Cup-tied and couldn’t play at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final, which was disappointing, but there were some good times.
“Richard Branson gave us all a present of mobile phones with months worth of credit on them. Another time, five of us opened the Brit Awards on drums with Queen and Five!
“And there was also the time we stripped off to pose as centrefolds in the gay magazine Campaign. They were always interesting times when Richard owned the club.
“At the end of the 2000 Super League season, in a win over Leeds at Headingley, I did my ACL (knee ligament and most of the next year.”
Again, Seibold returned to Brisbane, combining some university lecturing with footy for the Ipswich Jets. Next stop? C’mon – guess!
“Hull,” he says. “Hull KR were trying to get promoted to Super League, they heard I was available.
“Mal Reilly was the coach and I used to get him to tell me stories about the old days at Manly. I loved playing under him. I ended up captaining the team at the end of 2003 and into 2004.
“I’d just turned 30 and didn’t think anyone would be interested in signing me again. Then I got a call from Pete Nolan and John Dixon at the Brisbane Broncos.
“They wanted and older player/mentor type for the Toowoomba Clydesdales, who were their feeder team. Adrian vowles had done the job before. That was a great team – Sam Thaiday, Greg Eastwood, Nick Kenny….”
But by now, Seibold had his eyes permanently on the horizon. “John Dixon was going over to start the Celtic Crusaders in Wales and he kept asking me what it was like over there.
“I got to thinking and I said ‘if you can find a job for me, I’ll go with you’. I went and in three years, we got up into Super League.”
When the Crusaders moved from Bridgend to Wrexham, Seibold was torn. His wife Holly had a job teaching in the south of Wales. So, eventually, he stayed behind and helped set up the South Wales Scorpions.’
“We had Brian Noble and John Sharp there and I don’t mind saying I learned plenty then about how not to treat people,” he says. “I don’t mind having a go at them because I don’t agree with some of the things they did.”
In 2010, Seibold was named RFL coach of the year for his work at the Scorpions.
“I was in Portugal at the holiday home of one of the owners of the Crusaders and I went to check my email,” he recalls.
“It was from the Mackay Cutters. They were looking for a coach. And so there was another chapter.”
But wait, there’s more! “My grandfather is German and the German rugby league asked if I’d like to come and help coach and play in an international in Estonia.
“So on a bye weekend in Wales, I did. I went and played a rugby league international in Estonia.”
After two years coaching the Queensland Cup side based in north Queensland, Seibold was head-hunted by arguably our greatest current coach, Craig Bellamy.
His youngest daughter Isabella is 10 and has already lived in four countries. “I hate it when people say rugby league is just two states and the north of England,” he says.
“I have seen the passion of fans in France. I have experienced how crazy it is to play in Port Moresby. I have played in a Hull derby where 16,000 sounded like 50,000.
“I played at Canberra when Mal Meninga was there and he was a hero of mine. I played with Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley.
“And when I went to London, I played with Martin Offiah and Shaun Edwards. I’ve been lucky.
“You can have great life experiences in rugby league. You can go away having ‘not made it’ and come back and play first grade.
“Most of the kids I coach wouldn’t even know they play rugby league in France, which is an indictment against our code.
“So when people say rugby league is just a local game, it really shits me.”
ANTHONY SEIBOLD’S GUIDE TO AN AFTERNOON OFF IN…
“We always used to go to Sizzler in Toowong for a feed. I don’t know if it’s still there. I used to live with Wendell Sailor – we were groomsmen at each others’ weddings – and sometimes we went down to the park for a kicking contest”.
“A sleep! Everything closes between 12.30 and 2.30pm so we would go for a siesta. Aside from that, we’d play cards because we couldn’t understand the television.”
“Catch the tube to Leicester Square or Covent Garden and watch the world go by.”
“Ha! People say there’s not much to do there! When I was at Hull KR, we’d be out in the schools in the afternoon, spreading the message of healthy living”.
“Dive 20 minutes to Cardiff Bay. It’s beautiful – in summer, not so much in winter. There used to be a coffee shop in the Bridgend town square we liked but I can’t remember what it’s called.”
“Great parks, not to be missed. Take the kids there and let them run around.”
“Canetown Shopping Centre is one of the biggest malls in regional Australia. Go check that out.”
“My wife Holly is from Canberra, she’s Lincoln Withers’ sister, and she hates the fact l love to sit in on a session of parliament whenever I am in town.”
“I like to take the family down to St Kilda pier and just walk along it and hang out.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD