Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Team takes lead in decision

Leadership group formed as Warriors management address issues at the club, writes Michael Burgess

Ben Henry's rise in stature has seen him named in a Warrior's leadership group. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ben Henry's rise in stature has seen him named in a Warrior's leadership group. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Just as new Warriors coach Matthew Elliott promised, the appointment of Simon Mannering as captain was heavily influenced by the Warriors players who have also established the club's first leadership group.

In mid-November, as speculation swirled about the captaincy, Elliott said the skipper would be chosen by his peers.

"I won't make the decision, the players will make the decision [towards] the back end of the pre-season," Elliott told the Herald on Sunday at the time. "I won't be running out on the field with them, so it is important that they are involved in choosing their leader. [However], if I don't like who they choose, I am not going to allow that, because that is part of my job as well."

After the players decided they wanted to have a leadership core, votes were cast and from that, a five-man panel was elected - Mannering, Sam Rapira, Manu Vatuvei, Ben Henry and Jerome Ropati. Mannering was the only one to receive the unanimous support of the entire squad.

"From my point of view, I needed a captain but more importantly, the team needed a captain," said Elliott.

"The team then decided they wanted a leadership group, so they elected their own group. When they elected the leadership group, every player voted for him [Mannering], so I know he will have the support of the playing group."

While it is surprising there is no Australian in the quintet - particularly given the qualities and contribution of men such as Nathan Friend, Feleti Mateo and Jacob Lillyman in previous seasons - it is also a reflection of the high esteem that Vatuvei and Ropati are held and the continuing rise of Henry. Rapira presents a quiet nature publicly but is a strong presence within the walls.

Elliott reiterated that taking just over three weeks from the first trial to make the decision was optimal and justifiable.

"I don't think it would have meant a lot for me to come in on day one and say [to Mannering] 'you're still captain' when I didn't really know the bloke and hadn't seen him operate within the team environment. Equally, if I came and didn't think he was the best player for the position, I would have shared it with him and we would have gone in a different direction."

Elliott confirmed there were a number of other contenders for the armband: "It wasn't an obvious choice necessarily. We have got some guys who have leadership qualities outside of Simon. But from my point of view, as a conduit between the playing and coaching staff, as someone who conducts himself in the right manner on and off the field and has influence, Simon certainly had his hand up highest."

Mannering had "most of the ingredients" needed in a captain but, like any leader, had areas to develop.

"He needs support in developing his leadership," said Elliott. "Anyone does - that's why Prime Ministers have whips and other people supporting them."

Elliott won't be nominating a vice-captain, saying that if Mannering is unavailable, he will pick the next best to be captain. In 2012 - partly due to injuries to key men - there was a perception that the team lacked leadership on the field, something that has been addressed heading into 2013.

"Even though someone is elected as captain and there is a leadership group, it doesn't absolve responsibility right across the team," said Elliott.

"Todd [Lowrie] is here as a leader and we have men like like Jacob [Lillyman] and Dane Nielsen who have been involved in Origin. Then there is Thomas [Leuluai], Shaun [Johnson] and all the halves - they don't have any choice; they have to lead."

Meanwhile, stage one of the new Warriors gym - complete with new equipment and hyperbaric chambers are complete, the first step towards ensuring the Warriors' off-field facilities match up with most other NRL clubs. The team is reportedly fitter than ever, after issues with conditioning last season.

- Herald on Sunday

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