England Captain Jamie Peacock is out for the rest of the season and now, people are wondering who should captain England going into the Four Nations tournament to be hosted in Australia and New Zealand at seasons end.
When selecting the next captain, you have to remember that the RFL has a bit of a get out clause here. The player they select can be named as a stand in captain, the guy who has the job just until Peacock comes back next season.
In reality though, this will be a test for the player selected. Has he got what it takes to lead his nation through an era that looks pretty shaky at best.
Keeping in mind that the player named as captain for the Four Nations is going to have a heavy burden.
A terrible coach, a young side, many of whom have no idea that playing in Australia during our spring is a completely different ball game. This is going to be a job that involved leading a team that, at best will lose most of their matches, at worst will not win a single game, including the warm up match against the New Zealand Maori, and who could be heading back to England having lead the most disastrous tour in 40 years.
There are all sorts of options being tossed up at the moment.
The mainstream media tends to be backing Adrian Morley for the job. Sure, he has experience, but he has never been that great at Test level. being a prop, and if used properly, he is not going to play anything more than 60 minutes anyway, so he’ll be off the field for at least a quarter of the game, and then you have to factor in his ability to be a real leader on the field.
At his best, which is a long way from where he is right now, Morley could provide motivation through his play. However a captain needs to do more that that. Morely is a bludgeoning tool. He causes damage, but he’s not too complicated. He’s no captain.
James Graham is another who’s name has been put forward. Once again, a prop who will not be on the field for a good portion of the game, and to be honest, very much like Morley in the sense that he does a job, does it well, but you cant see him being a captain.
Sam Burgess is young, only 21 years old, but has an experienced head on his shoulders. He has shown why he is so different from the vast majority of players England has produced in the last 15 years with the way he has carried himself since coming to Australia to play against the Worlds Best.
Humble, great with the media, he carried himself with dignity and is humble about his ability. Its not about ego for him, its about going out and playing football, and when he walks of the field, he’s just big Sammy again.
I think one day he will be captain, no doubt about it. He has the ability, on and off the field, to do the job now. Having said that, I don’t give him the job just yet. I want him to get the captaincy, not when he wants it, not when he thinks he is ready, but when he really IS ready to take on all that added pressure that comes with the job.
I don’t want Sam Burgess getting to 30 and having carried the England side, on and off the field, for 9 years.
So he wouldn’t be my selection.
Garry Schofield suggested that Kyle Eastmond should get the captaincy, which is find completely insane! He has played just a handful of Test matches, on home soil, he is still finding his feet at club level, let alone having to get used to the idea of being Englands only option at test level. He is way too young and lets face it, he needs to improve his game over the next few years or he could easily be replaced by a youngster coming through who has a few more tools on their work belt.
A really stupid idea that one.
Kevin Sinfields name has been put forward, again I find that ridiculous. He is not certain to be in Englands top 17 for the first game of the Four Nations, and if he is, chances are it will be off the bench.
People have pointed out his amazing record as the captain of the Leeds Rhinos. Thats great. But Ian Millward is one of the most successful coaches in the history of Super League, and that doesn’t make him even a half decent coach when you are scaling yourself against the worlds best.
So who do I think should be the England Captain?
Yes, the make believe second rower that plays wider than a center.
So why Ellis?
Firstly, he is much like Burgess in that, Rugby League isn’t a vehicle for him to have a self congratulatory wank over his own amazingness. Footy isn’t about ego for him. He goes out, plays the game, and when he walks off the field he is the big Pommmy living in Sydney and thats that.
He has experience on the field, he is a player that other look towards as a natural leader and he has been in Australia now long enough to know what the media will be like when things go bad for England.
Most importantly, I think he is the only player that wouldn’t be broken by a disastrous Four Nations competition. I think he has the mental strength to go through the big losses England will be incurring. He has the strength to front up to the media after these games.
Most importantly he is the only England player that I see who can walk into the sheds at halftime on the wrong end of a big scoreline, and not look beaten.
I said many years ago that Gareth Ellis should be the England Captain, even before they appointed Jamie Peacock. Now, more than ever, I think he is the right man for the job.
Some people do not like the idea that the England Captain will be a player not living in England. They suggest its bad for marketing and not a good look for the game.
The problem the RFL needs to face is, reality. Ellis and Burgess, the two best English players in the game, are just the beginning of a tide of English players that will look to test themselves in Australia.
Between the exchange rates being very different to what they once were, the lure of living in Australia and playing against the world best, and the way the NRL salary cap is expected to rise over the next few years, money will not be an issue any more.
If the RFL starts to turn its back on its best player, we will see a situation where they England side running out in 10 years from now could be made up of the best of the rest.
Ellis can be made available to the English media via video link ups. He plays for an NRL club that is open to him playing mid season tests. He is the best man for the job, he always has been.