The Brumbies are planning for the long-term, as they begin preseason without many of their Wallabies stars.
With Wallabies players not required back in training until January, after Test duties wrapped up last week, coach Dan McKellar has put the first month of preseason in a different set of leaders’ hands.
Though 2017 co-Sam Carter is among the group, the other names including Josh Mann-Rea, Kyle Godwin, Wharenui Hawera and Tom Cusack are relatively new to taking the reins.
McKellar said the idea behind creating a temporary leadership group now was to set up for inevitable turnover at the club, and avoid an awkward transition down the road.
“I think a big thing for me is I want to make sure we improve our existing leaders, but when they move on, that we’ve got guys ready to go, so we don’t have the same thing that probably happened a couple of years ago,” he said.
“(That was) when we lost a lot of senior players, Christian (Lealiifano) got sick and there’s a bit of a gulf in leadership there, so we’ve got to make sure those emerging guys and those young leaders are being shown the ropes as well and that we’re upskilling them away from rugby.”
Carter and Lealiifano shared the captaincy last year, with the latter mainly an off-field leader in his recovery from leukaemia, and though that pair may be frontrunners again, McKellar said he would wait to make a final call on the leadership for 2018.
“They’re a couple of guys I’ll talk to over the next couple of months and we’ll finalise who’ll be the captains,” he said.
“Although we’ll have a leadership group, we want to have an environment where everyone feels empowered to speak up and if they see something that’s going to make us better then have a voice.
“It’s not just about loading five or six guys up with the sole responsibility of driving standards.”
Some of the Brumbies’ Wallabies contingent were back at the club on Monday, with prop Scott Sio among the group who came into training earlier than expected.
The ACT franchise will welcome back some experience in 2018, with flanker David Pocock returning, though they have farewelled
Backrower Lochie McCaffrey will go some way to filling that void, with his return officially underway after four seasons overseas.
“He was here four years ago and fits in, knows how the Brumbies work, but we lost a bit of experienced in the back row this year, with (Scott Fardy, Jordan Smiler, Jarrad Butler) leaving so we wanted to bring in someone who could add a bit of experience.
“Lochie’s been away now for four years in the UK, played really well, certainly grown as a footballer improved in areas and he was keen to get back and play Super Rugby.
“It was a pretty easy decision, very skillful guy, and we think he’ll add a point of difference and an edge.”
The Brumbies open their Super Rugby season on Saturday February 24, against the Sunwolves, kicking off at 3:15pm local, 1:15pm AEDT.