Whether they lead by actions or by words or a powerful mix of both, the men charged with captaining the 16 NRL clubs in 2022 share one common goal - to hoist the Provan Summons Trophy skyward on October 2.
For some that's a realistic goal, for others perhaps a pipe dream, but regardless of where the pundits see them finishing, the captain must give his men the belief that they can reach the summit. Or to quote Napoleon Bonaparte, "a leader is a dealer in hope".
From long-serving skippers like Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans and Canterbury's Josh Jackson to first timers like Tino Fa'asuamaleaui at the Titans, they will be asked to manage the game, manage their men, manage the media and manage to keep their head when all around them others are losing theirs.
O Captain! My Captain!
Bulldogs — Josh Jackson
Josh Jackson heads into his fifth season at the helm and is entitled to be feeling a whole lot better about his team's prospects after some stunning recruitment. One of the most respected leaders in the NRL, Jackson is a proud one-club man with 218 games and 10 years of service to the blue and whites. Leads from the front every time he takes the paddock.
Broncos — Adam Reynolds
Adam Reynolds joins an extraordinary honour roll of Broncos captains which includes Darren Lockyer, Allan Langer, Gorden Tallis, Wally Lewis and Kevin Walters. Expectations are high in Brisbane for a return to the finals but dealing with that sort of pressure is nothing new to the astute playmaker after a decade at the Rabbitohs. The 31-year-old will set high standards on and off the field and his new team-mates should enjoy playing under him.
Reynolds unveiled as Broncos captain
Raiders — Jarrod Croker and Elliott Whitehead
Jarrod Croker and Elliott Whitehead joined forces as co-captains in 2021 after Whitehead replaced fellow Englishman Josh Hodgson in the job. They don't come any more loyal or loved than Croker and his voice is the most respected at the Green Machine, while Whitehead leaves nothing in the tank every time he steps onto the field. With one skipper in the thick of the action and the other surveying things from wider out, the Raiders have the ideal combination and two men who will accept nothing less than a return to the top eight.
Sharks — Wade Graham
Wade Graham has been restricted to just 40 games across the past three seasons and the Sharks have desperately missed his leadership when he is absent. Graham never asks a team-mate to do anything he wouldn't do himself and his fearless attitude has taken a heavy toll on his body. An ankle injury is set to sideline the skipper for the first six games so new coach Craig Fitzgibbon will look to the likes of senior figures Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes to step up.
Eels — Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo
Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo form a new captaincy combination in 2022 and Eels fans have good reason to be excited about what these two bring to the table. Both fierce competitors, both highly regarded by coach Brad Arthur and their team-mates, both match-winners in their own right and both willing to lay it all on the line in the pursuit of that elusive premiership.
The King leading from the front
Titans — Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
“Tino is a natural leader and he has been that with us since he first arrived at the club. He sets such high standards and I love that about Tino." With that glowing endorsement, Titans coach Justin Holbrook signalled the dawn of a new era at Gold Coast. At just 21, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui is the NRL's youngest captain by some margin, but such is his standing at the club that Holbrook was happy to hand him the reins. The club's core of senior players including Kevin Proctor, Isaac Liu and Corey Thompson will be close at hand to offer advice and encouragement to the new skipper.
Tino to lean on Bromwich for captaincy advice
Sea Eagles — Daly Cherry-Evans
Daly Cherry-Evans took charge at Manly in 2017 after the retirement of Jamie Lyon and has taken the club to three finals in that time. Only Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies, Anthony Watmough and Alan Thompson have played more games for the Sea Eagles and all things being equal he'll chalk up his 300th career game some time in 2023. When DCE speaks, Manly men listen. A superb on-field general and a strong voice off it for not only his club but for players across the game in his role as RLPA general president.
Storm — Jesse Bromwich and Christian Welch
Follow us, boys. That is sure to be the mantra of co-captains Jesse Bromwich and Christian Welch in 2022. Maroons prop Welch steps up to the role with Dale Finucane heading to the Sharks and looms as like for like replacement in so many ways - unbreakable resolve, work ethic, standing in the game. "Being captain, especially alongside Jesse, is a great honour and it was something of a surprise to be asked by Craig to do the job this year," Welch said. The two enforcers are joined in the club's leadership group by Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Jahrome Hughes.
Bromwich and Welch named Storm captains
Knights — Kalyn Ponga and Jayden Brailey
Superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga will lead the Knights on field as team captain and workaholic hooker Jayden Brailey takes the role of club captain. Ponga and Brailey were part of the club's leadership group in 2021 and are highly regarded by their peers and club bosses. Two men in their prime of their careers who can inspire great deeds from team-mates and lead a new golden era in Newcastle.
Cowboys — Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend
Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend have been charged with returning the Cowboys to the top eight after a lean four seasons. Coach Todd Payten is renowned as a hard marker and he'll expect his two leaders to be just as tough on their troops. Townsend knows what it takes to win premierships and his steady hand and calming voice is the perfect foil for Taumalolo's fearsome approach to the contest.
Payten pays tribute to Townsend
Panthers — Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo
Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo took their team to the top of the mountain in 2021 and many good judges believe they can emulate the Roosters of 2018-19 and go back-to-back. With Cleary calling the shots and Yeo putting them on, the Panthers swept all before them last year. The champion No.7 shares a special bond with the likes of Jarome Luai, Dylan Edwards and Liam Martin having come through the junior ranks together while unassuming country boy Yeo's actions speak louder than any dressing room rant.
Yeo takes to the stage to lift the Provan-Summons trophy
Dragons — Ben Hunt
"It's a massive privilege to be named captain of this historic club. It is a responsibility I won't be taking lightly." So said Ben Hunt when he took over leadership of the Red V in 2021 and the halfback certainly made good on his promise. The fact the Red V missed the finals for a third straight year won't sit well with Hunt and he'll leave no stone unturned in a bid to end the drought. A number of clubs prefer to go with leadership groups but the clarity that comes with having just one captain, one voice is a model that has stood the test of time for a reason.
Rabbitohs — Cameron Murray
Cameron Murray is South Sydney through and through, just like the man he succeeds as skipper, Adam Reynolds. The 24-year-old Mascot Jets junior follows in the footsteps of such Redfern luminaries as Clive Churchill, Jack Rayner, John Sattler, Mario Fenech, John Sutton and Greg Inglis, and all indications are he'll do the Pride of the League proud. Murray will lead by his actions and his men will follow as they look to make amends for a heartbreaking loss in last year's decider.
Roosters — James Tedesco
It speaks volumes of James Tedesco's leadership that he was named Dally M captain of the year in 2021 despite his team bowing out in week two of the finals. If ever there was a club that needed strong leaders it was the Roosters as they confronted a horror run of injuries and retirements. Having farewelled Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend in the space of three months, the Tricolours turned to the Blues and Kangaroos fullback for inspiration, guidance and reassurance and he delivered all three in spades.
Tedesco named Dally M Captain of the Year
Warriors — Tohu Harris
With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck departing, Tohu Harris has been crowned the 12th captain in the club's 27-year history. The 182-game veteran follows a line of long-serving leaders in Steve Price, Simon Mannering and RTS and he is every bit as admired as those three greats. “I never looked at myself or imagined myself in the captaincy role. This wasn’t something I thought would ever happen. I want to make sure I do the role justice and take this club forward," Harris said when the announcement was made in December. A humble man ready to serve his club.
Wests Tigers — James Tamou, Luke Brooks, Ken Maumalo, Tyrone Peachey and Adam Doueihi
No shortage of criticism for the Tigers' decision to appoint five captains in James Tamou, Luke Brooks, Ken Maumalo, Tyrone Peachey and Adam Doueihi but it's a leadership group brimming with experience. Between them they have played 823 NRL games and all have the ability to inspire by their actions but things may get a little confusing when one clear voice is needed on the field. If the Tigers can finally make it back to the finals after a decade-long drought then the controversial call will have proven to be the right one.