James Slipper won’t be replaced as Queensland Reds captain but he could end up sharing the role, as coach Nick Stiles attempts to make the most out of a huge influx of experience this season.
Stiles is keeping an open mind on official leadership positions but has praised Slipper for the way he had guided the team through a nightmare three-win Super Rugby campaign last year and the sacking of Richard Graham after just two games.
Recruits Stephen Moore, George Smith, Quade Cooper and Scott Higginbotham are potential options if Stiles moves to a co-captaincy set-up, or if he’s seeking an alternative to vice-captain Rob Simmons.
“One thing I want to make really clear is that I was really happy with the work James Slipper did last year,” Stiles told reporters on Tuesday.
“I just think having the rest of the guys here gives his leadership another leg.
“I’m probably not down a traditional path of just having one captain. I want to see these guys coming in really contribute across the board.”
Wallabies captain Moore, returning to Brisbane after eight years with the Brumbies, said he admired from afar the job Slipper did last season.
“A lot of the players here were knocked around a fair bit last year,” he said.
“It was a tough year off the field as well. James did a great job to keep everyone together and positive and in a very tough environment.
“A big part of my role here is to help James and the other leaders as well.
“If we can really establish a strong culture around leadership and not rely too much on one or two people, we’ll be going in the right direction.”
The Reds, who haven’t qualified for the finals in three years, are expected at the very least to challenge for the Australian conference title this season on the back of their impressive and extensive recruiting drive.
Stiles, meanwhile, expects Higginbotham will be cleared of serious injury after limping off the field on the weekend in the Japanese Top League.
The 30-year-old back-rower could link up with his Reds teammates before the end of January because his team, NEC Green Rockets, are out of finals contention.
However, Smith and Reds import Hendrik Tui – who both play for the undefeated Suntory Sungoliath – will be tied up until mid-February.