Cap­tains don’t come bet­ter than these blokes


IT’S A RUGBY LEAGUE en­tre­pre­neur’s bo­nanza: the four best teams boast­ing the four best cap­tains. This week’s fi­nals sce­nario is made in heaven. I know a thing or two about what makes a good skip­per, hav­ing played un­der four of the great­est. Wayne Pearce at the Tigers was my best but I had the ut­most re­spect for Steve Mor­timer (NSW Ori­gin), Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga (Aus­tralia).

It was a plea­sure to play with each of them. They each had their own way of in­still­ing con­fi­dence in you, es­pe­cially Pearce.

Wally and Mal were such leg­ends you just didn’t want to let them down, and “Tur­vey” Mor­timer had a knack of get­ting the best out of you.

The four cap­tains of 2016 each have their own in­spir­ing qual­i­ties. I rate them in the fol­low­ing or­der: 1. Cameron Smith. 2. Johnathan Thurston (listed as co-cap­tain with Matt Scott – really!). 3. Jar­rod Cro­ker 4. Paul Gallen.

Smith con­trols the game bet­ter than any­body. I love the way he ques­tions every de­ci­sion that goes against the Storm. By do­ing that, he’s giv­ing his team a breather. I can’t re­call a cap­tain who gets away with it like he does.

Thurston is a game man­ager, al­ways calm and cool. He has a knowl­edge of the game we’ve never seen the likes of.

Cro­ker’s un­flap­pable. Highly re­spected by his play­ers and the ref­er­ees. I get the im­pres­sion the Raiders are play­ing with such con­trol that Cro­ker has his stamp firmly en­grossed on their back.

Gallen leads by ex­am­ple. He may be in­clined to over­play his hand but you can’t be crit­i­cal of his en­thu­si­asm and his will­ing­ness to shed blood and bone. But he’s not en­dear­ing to ref­er­ees and I hope that isn’t the rea­son the Sharks fail to break their pre­mier­ship duck.

JT the great­est I’ve seen

I want to go on record be­fore another scrum is packed in declar­ing Johnathan Thurston as the best player I’ve ever seen. He has a golden arm and a golden brain. In fair­ness to play­ers of other eras, they never had the tech­nol­ogy Thurston has to help him dis­sect an op­po­nent’s strengths and weak­nesses. He sums them up with such in­ten­sity it’s a won­der they don’t spill the ball the mo­ment they see him com­ing.

Pen­rith are very close

Well played, but the Panthers are to­mor­row’s team. They lacked men­tal tough­ness, an at­tribute that comes with ex­pe­ri­ence via age. If you love a bet, back them for higher hon­ours next sea­son. By then they’ll have the ap­ti­tude to grass an op­pos­ing player and not al­low him the lib­erty of stand­ing in the tackle and of­fload­ing.

Raiders are pack­ing the best of Bri­tish

I tipped the Panthers over Can­berra, think­ing Blake Austin and Josh Hodg­son would be miss­ing. But when they were passed fit to play, I switched to the Raiders. I keep singing the praises of Pommy Hodg­son, and I’ll risk los­ing my voice to keep do­ing just that. This bloke’s a cham­pion and the Four Na­tions clash be­tween the Ausies and Eng­land is shap­ing as a rightroyal clas­sic.

Wrestle­ma­nia in Mel­bourne

There’s no prize for nom­i­nat­ing the team that’s a real pain in the neck. The Storm have a copy­right on the ti­tle. The Raiders can ex­pect to be neck-wres­tled at every op­por­tu­nity but Ricky Stu­art just may have his own un­ortho­dox tack­ling method ready to be re­leased.

CAP­TAIN, MY CAP­TAIN: Cro­ker, Gallen, Thurston and Smith are su­perb lead­ers of men.

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