Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Braid has true Blues attitude for captaincy

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Luke Braid. Photo / Richard Robinson
Luke Braid. Photo / Richard Robinson

The golden season and personal gilt for Brendon McCullum shut the lid on the commotion about captaincy of the New Zealand cricket side.

When any team changes its leader because of retirement, demotion or a change of plans, there is debate.

That can range from the furious discussion and festering theories about Buck Shelford's axing from the All Blacks while there was a far milder accepting reception when Richie McCaw was promoted.

Urban myths often accompany leadership changes as rumours run around the public block on the internet or talkback radio.

But so far there has been scarcely a peep about Luke Braid's promotion to captain the Blues in this year's Super Rugby series.

Was it expected, were there no alternatives, do the Blues not rate on the rugby scale?

The flanker filled in as captain for some games in 2012 when Keven Mealamu was not available but was overlooked last season when the Blues went for the more experienced but deteriorating Ali Williams.

The lock had pledged his full attention to the job and that allowed Braid to concentrate on his other duties.

He was part of the Blues leadership group throughout 2013 and one of the more forthright men during team meetings about tactics and performance.

When Williams sensibly took the wise route to the loot in Europe, Blues coach Sir John Kirwan and his assistants mulled over their choices for captain. They had 11 past or present All Blacks to consider but few leapt out as the sort to stir the troops.

Mealamu has done his time and Piri Weepu was probably in with a serious shout if the selectors thought it would help his ambition to return to national colours.

Other senior men like Tony Woodcock, Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino were returning after an absence while Steven Luatua had to concentrate on reproducing another strong season.

None of the others like James Parsons and Jackson Willison who are in the squad's leadership group, are guaranteed starters like Braid.

Braid has been immersed in Super rugby for six years at the Chiefs and now the Blues.

His form is remarkably consistent and he is not disconcerted if he has to bark at more experienced teammates.

It did not take Kirwan long to settle on Braid to drive the Blues in a season where the rhetoric has to translate into results.

Six wins from 16 matches was a step up the ladder but that climb has to find new levels this campaign.

Braid will bring that attitude.

He was in the NZ under-20 side, NZ Maori team, has twice been player of the year for the Blues and was in the frame when the All Blacks were scouting for open side backup to Richie McCaw.

He and Highlanders' skipper Nasi Manu are new to the leadership role with Manu looking to get his 50th Super Rugby game off to a strong start tonight while Braid and the Blues need to nail this game as a stimulus for the rest of the series.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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