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Renouf: The four best NRL captains of 2018

In a physical body contact sport like rugby league the best captains are those who lead with their actions and let their footy do the talking.

They are also inspirational figures who have a presence that others want to follow which is why Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ryan James, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston are the four captains who have impressed me the most in 2018.

I would never have picked Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as a captain in the past but the good thing is the added responsibility has been good for his game. He's been on fire.

He is letting his footy do the talking and leading by example with his actions. I played under Allan Langer for most of my career and he was the same.

At the start of the season there was speculation about whether Roger would defect to rugby union but he soon put that to bed and re-signed with the Warriors for four seasons. He made a statement early about where he wanted to be and that was leadership on his behalf.

How close RTS came to rugby

You have a look at his statistics for the season and in 20 games he's made 107 tackle breaks and 13 line breaks. In the last two games, he's made over 600 running metres alone. That's inspirational stuff.

He has the RTS step and he is confident enough to use it. The way he breaks tackles and brings the ball back with courage on every occasion must lift his teammates. When you watch your fullback and captain do that it gives you a boost as a player and you have to follow suit.

I've noticed how Roger has the respect of all his teammates and he's only 25. I reckon the Warriors would be one of the hardest teams to captain in the NRL. They have under-achieved in the past and the expectations are huge. This year they are on track for the finals and Tuivasa-Sheck's leadership is a major factor.

The 2018 season would have been one of Johnathan Thurston's toughest of his career. He is such a competitor and loves to win but it hasn't worked out that way for the Cowboys in his final season. I just love the way he has held it all together, answered his critics and provided an example for his teammates to follow now and into the future.

At the start of the year he copped it for his form and even I thought the spring in his step was lacking. You could say that about the whole side, but I reckon he has pulled them out of that. I know they haven't got the results, but they lost a lot of close games in the middle of the season and are playing a lot better. JT has led that. He wants to leave that club in good shape and the games the Cowboys have won have been on the back of Thurston at his best. We saw that against the Broncos when he came up with the match-winning play.

Another classic Cowboys-Broncos finish

I have read stories about how he is still doing extras on the training field and that is leadership and a great example to his teammates. He has shown the young guys like Jake Clifford and Te Maire Martin that hard work is what takes you to the top and I'm sure that is a lesson that will stay with them after JT retires.

Greg Inglis has always had a presence about him but even he admits that several years back he did not envisage he would be captain of a proud club like South Sydney or the Queensland Maroons. There is a good chance he will also become captain of the Kangaroos at the end of the year.

GI has got Souths going great this season and a major factor in that is the way he has grown into that leadership role. He is another captain who leads with his actions and I've noted how he is more vocal than he was in the past.

At the start of the year he was coming back from a serious injury and the Rabbitohs didn't start the season that great after a tough couple of seasons. With a new coach, Anthony Seibold, it could have all gone south but Greg has worked closely with Seibs to take them back to the top and challenge for another premiership.

Now that he is about to return to the field from a broken thumb I expect Souths to get a second wind. I'm sure the players will go to another level with Greg back on the field and that is the kind of influence he has.

Ryan James has really impressed me this year at the helm of the Titans. He's a forward who doesn't take a backward step and he's another leader who has upped the ante with his talk.

The Titans need a captain who can take them to another level and Ryan has done that with his own game.

He was on the cusp of NSW selection this year which shows just how far he has progressed. He gives 100% every match and what I like about him is his passion for the Titans.

Gold Coast prop Ryan James.
Gold Coast prop Ryan James. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

He grew up in the area and went to school on the Gold Coast so the success of the Titans means so much to him personally.

He's not just there to get his pay cheque and you see that each week with the way he plays. He wears his heart on his sleeve and cares about the result and that will not be lost on his teammates.

He's at the Titans because he wants to be and any leader of that club needs to project that desire. Ryan certainly does that.

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