Gold Coast coach Neil Henry says consultation with the NRL club’s board led him to overlook Greg Bird for the captaincy and install Nathan Friend and William Zillman in a joint role instead.
Co-captains Zillman and Friend, a foundation Titan who returned to the club this season following four years with the Warriors, replace Nate Myles who left the club to move to Manly.
NSW Origin representative Bird, who was stripped of the Gold Coast co-captaincy after an off-field incident in December 2014, recently said it would “definitely bother” him if he wasn’t made skipper.
Henry admitted it was a tough decision to reach.
“Greg Bird was a player who is a strong leader on the field and made it known he’d like to lead the club,” he said.
“But in consultation with the board, we’ve talked about reasons for and against that. He’s been very accepting.
“His role doesn’t change on the field, he’s a leader out there anyway, he’s expected to contribute.”
Asked if Friend and Zillman’s comparatively cleanskin images helped sway him, Henry said: “It’s a complete package.”
“You need to be the face of the club too and that’s certainly a consideration.
“The boys have got proud history at the club. Will’s been here since 2009, Nathan’s a foundation player coming back to the club.
“There’s a lot of experience between them and respect amongst the playing group (for them). I think they’ll do a good job.”
Friend said he learned of Henry’s call at a leadership group meeting a week ago.
“I’m just honoured to have been held in such esteem at the club and to earn the respect from my peers,” he said.
Both co-captains will play on Saturday in Gold Coast’s pre-season trial against South Sydney at Pizzey Park, with Zillman set to make his long-awaited injury comeback, having not played for the club since round 10 last season.
Zillman, who underwent back surgery in August, missed the NRL Auckland Nines and the trial against Parramatta in Alice Springs because of a calf injury but is fit to help lead the Titans out for the first time.
“I’m running more freely than I have for years after having surgery although it was a bit frustrating missing the Nines and the first trial because of the calf injury. I’m raring to go now,” he said.
“It’s going to be good tough trial to prepare us for the clash with the Knights in round one, with both of us fielding strong sides and, hopefully, we get a good crowd at Pizzey Park to create a good atmosphere.”
Nene McDonald (knee), Bird (face) and Josh Hoffman will all miss the match, with the latter two certain to be fit for the NRL season opener.
Gold Coast: William Zillman, David Mead, Nathan Davis, Brian Kelly, Anthony Don, Tyrone Roberts, Ash Taylor, Ryan James, Nathan Friend, David Shillington, Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen, Agnatius Paasi.