Charlie Ngatai provided the Chiefs with many things over his six seasons at the franchise.

Of all the skills he bought week in and week out, his leadership was most probably the most under recognised facet.

The Chiefs reference the importance of "Mana" a lot and Ngatai had it in abundance.

His departure to French club Lyon at the end of last season left a significant hole in the Chiefs backline leadership for the 2019 season.


A man who knows he has to step into that void is Anton Lienert-Brown.

Before the addition of 35-year-old Stephen Donald as an injury replacement for Tiaan Falcon two days ago, the average age of the backs in this year's Chiefs squad was just under 23 years old.

As a 33 test All Black entering his sixth season of Super Rugby, Lienert-Brown is now one of the elder statesman and understands that he has to be a leader in the group.

"You sort of get pushed into this role as you get older," he says before chuckling about how old he's getting - he'll turn 24 in April.

"[Leadership] is something I probably shied away from at the start, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to now"

There is no doubt in Chiefs coach Colin Cooper's mind that Lienert-Brown's has all the attributes to do the job.

"He's an All Black; he's a quality player, and he's a quality man also," Cooper says.

"He knows how to communicate really well, he gives confidence to the younger guys and I think he's learnt off Charlie and Liam [Messam] and the leaders that have been before him."


Lienert-Brown confirms Cooper's inkling about how much the unflappable Ngatai taught him during their time together.

"I learned off him just to be calm and clear while his skill set was amazing; right up there with some of the best all-round midfielders.

"I learnt a lot of him as a person and as a player."

With it being a Rugby World Cup year, the timing of the new responsibility could be beneficial too.

Lienert-Brown figures to be part of the All Blacks midfield conundrum which should feature fellow End of Year tourists Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue and Sonny Bill Williams as well as Ngani Laumape and Matt Proctor, who started the test against Japan in midfield, and possibly returning 103-capped All Black Ma'a Nonu.

As someone who likes to "go with the flow and not look too far ahead", leadership could be a useful focus for Lienert-Brown amid the selection banter that will flow freely throughout the season.

"I never think I'm an All Black until I make the All Blacks.

"Every year I want to play good rugby and earn the right to be in there and that's what I'll be trying to do during Super Rugby."

The Chiefs side for the opening game against the Highlanders is revealed at 4pm.