Revealed: Shocking NRL links to Seibold smear campaign
An offshore cybersecurity probe into a social media smear campaign against Brisbane Broncos mentor Anthony Seibold has identified a slew of suspects with links to current NRL coaches, former coaches and former first-grade stars.
News Corp can reveal European investigators believe Seibold may be the victim of an orchestrated campaign to have him sacked as Broncos coach after uncovering defamatory data involving people with links to the NRL.
The revelation will rock the code as it was widely believed the defamatory and damaging text messages and slurs surrounding Seibold were driven by social media trolls outside the NRL industry.
But the team of hi-tech social-media experts, which include a former member of the United Kingdom's SAS, have discovered NRL-related identities after forensically probing more than 300 leads in the past seven days.
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Seibold's lawyer Dave Garratt confirmed investigators are closing in on their suspects, saying they are "90 per cent sure" of the Broncos coach's social media attackers.
"They are very, very close (to catching the offenders)," he said.
"From what we understand, there is more than one person involved."
Seibold sought legal help and made a formal complaint to Queensland police last week after finding himself at the epicentre of a series of baseless and highly-offensive rumours about his private life.
Garratt passed on Seibold's case to Europe's top cybersecurity professionals. They have trawled through chat rooms and thousands of social-media posts to uncover the architects of the innuendo engulfing the Broncos coach.
It was alleged there was one "person of prominence" attached to the Seibold slurs, but investigators have deemed it is not a solo exercise, refining their probe to a specific group of people with NRL links.
Those people have been sensationally identified as associates of current NRL coaches and ex-coaches, including family and friends.
The names of former NRL players, spreading explosive allegations about Seibold, have also been tracked down by the cybersecurity hounds.
The team of overseas sleuths are not familiar with rugby league and were not aware of the significance of some names until they were handed to Garratt and one Australian-based cybersecurity expert.
The names are said to be well-known in NRL circles.
Garratt spoke to European experts on Monday night. He briefed Seibold and Broncos chief executive Paul White of the investigators' latest findings as they prepare to formally supply a list of names to the Broncos coach this week.
"The cybersecurity people have told me they are 90 per cent sure of who is behind these attacks," said Garratt of Howden Saggers Lawyers.
"In fact, it is a group of people and the investigators will give me the different names.
"They are trying to find the motivation and we will explore whether the motivation was getting rid of Anthony as coach of the Broncos, or if they don't like him as a person.
"What Anthony does with the information is up to him."
Should the probe formally uncover persons with rugby league links, it could force the NRL's integrity unit to become involved.
The vicious rumours about Seibold were so widespread last week his name was trending on Twitter, prompting the Broncos coach to seek the help of police and lawyers.
Investigators believe the group may have colluded in a bid to have Seibold sacked.
"These are faceless cowards on keyboards hiding behind anonymous accounts. It's actually sad," Seibold said on Monday.
"I'd hate any other coach or player to go through what I have this last week.
"At some point, as a game, we need to take a stand."
Seibold will return to Broncos training on Monday, by which time he will be furnished with names and accounts of the social-media trolls who have defamed him.
Garratt said Seibold would have the power to launch legal action against his attackers on dual fronts.
"There are two different charges Anthony can pursue," the lawyer said.
"He can go for criminal defamation or he can see a defamation lawyer himself regarding a civil suit, but that's a matter for him.
"I have advised the investigators not to rush it. I don't want a half-arsed job.
"I would rather they be 100 per cent sure and then I will submit that report to Anthony."
Revelations that the cybersecurity experts have traced NRL identities are sure to have some in the industry on edge.
Despite searing speculation about his future, Seibold, currently in COVID lockdown at his home, is determined to fight on as Broncos coach.
Brisbane hooker Issac Luke said players were rallying in support of him.
"We are all behind 'Seibs'," he said.
"Everyone is checking in on him and making sure he is all right.
"He is still a big part of this group and we want to make him feel involved. I think he gets back on Monday and even up until he went into his isolation, he was a big part of the team.
"We have been sending him messages. Personally, I feel for him and he has our support."
Originally published as Revealed: Shocking NRL links to Seibold smear campaign