David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

How the Warriors' captaincy can take its toll

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Simon Mannering is standing down as Warriors club captain with back-rower Ryan Hoffman named as his replacement. Photo/Getty
Simon Mannering is standing down as Warriors club captain with back-rower Ryan Hoffman named as his replacement. Photo/Getty

Who could blame Simon Mannering for being sick and tired of dealing with the commitments as Warriors captain?

He never shirks his work on the field or at training but the 29-year-old 236 game veteran never felt entirely comfortable fulfilling the off-field responsibilities required of an NRL club leader.

Add on top of that the burden of having to front up week after week, season after season, to shoulder the blame and offer up reasons for the Warriors latest collapse or late season slide, and you get an idea of the relentless pressures he was under.

Last year's failed campaign took its toll on Mannering's health - he struggled through a period early in the season with a gastro bug that saw him rested from some team training and even replaced late in matches against Wests Tigers, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Titans and Raiders. By the season's end he was battling various niggles and with his energy stores low found himself susceptible to further illness, which prompted him to sit out the Kiwis end of year tour to England.

This time last year I was fortunate enough to receive an insight into a typical day in his shoes, when I travelled to Sydney alongside Mannering, to attend the NRL's season launch at the Opera House.

It's fair to say Mannering was not overly thrilled about making the trip and even less excited to be accompanied by a journalist, but in his role as Warriors captain it fell on him to represent the club alongside the other 15 NRL team captains.

For captains of the nine Sydney clubs, the function took only a couple of hours out of the middle of their day and did not impact upon their team's preparations. But for Mannering it meant missing a full day's training less than two weeks before the Warriors' round one match against Newcastle, and great disruption to his normal routines.

The early morning flight required him to rise at 5am before squeezing his 1.93m frame into an economy seat - no All Blacks style special treatment here - for the four hour flight across the Tasman.

Upon landing we headed straight to the Opera House where we waited for the other players to arrive, when news filtered through that North Queensland co-captain Matt Scott would not be attending.

The official word from the Cowboys was that he had suffered a back strain at training the day before and was in no condition to fly, but a disbelieving laugh and shake of the head from Mannering indicated he wasn't buying the line.

Privately he wondered why the Warriors could not be exempt from such commitments, given the demands of the trip, and he joked that he should have come up with a similar excuse, but he never let his frustrations become apparent or affect his mood.

Formalities soon got underway, with Mannering and his peers donning their respective playing strips before posing for photos and accommodating endless interview requests.

The event had barely finished before he was whisked off back to the airport to catch a late afternoon flight back to Auckland, having spent no more than three hours on Australian soil.

It would have been close to 9pm before he made it home, no doubt dying for a decent feed after a day of airplane food, and in need of a good sleep before Warriors training at 7am the next day.

He hopes now that being free of those duties can help him recapture the form that saw him win four Warriors Player of the Year awards.

Even if he fails to reach those heights, Mannering should be rejuvenated and more enthused to take the field each week, and that can only be a good thing for the club that has for so long relied upon him to lead the way.

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David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

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