James Slipper admits it will be “surreal” bossing around Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore and legend George Smith as Queensland Reds captain.
Slipper was on Thursday confirmed as Reds skipper for the third successive season, despite the arrival of a number of experienced recruits who shaped as potential replacements.
The 27-year-old will be supported by a four-man leadership group including Moore, returning Reds favourite Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sam Talakai.
Smith has only just linked up with his new teammates after spending most of the last seven years playing overseas but his presence alone already has Slipper walking taller.
“It’s surreal. They’re legends of the game,” Slipper told reporters.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play with them for nearly eight years.
“It’s good to have Steve back at the club and George came in the other week. You can just feel the pick-up in intensity in training and around the standards and that’s what those blokes bring.
“Yes, I’ve got the ‘captain’ next to my name but by no means do I stand out above anyone.”
Coach Nick Stiles said he could see Slipper – capped 86 times already at Test level – growing as a captain with the backing of Moore, Smith and Cooper, the latter who has taken on an official leadership role for the first time in his career.
“It’s a draining job, at times, being a leader. You don’t get tougher times than what we’ve had than in the last 12 months. He’s grown through that period,” he said.
Last year’s deputy Rob Simmons, who filled in for Slipper as interim captain while he was injured, has been dropped from the leadership group.
But Stiles said the Wallaby lock “front-footed” him to tell him that he didn’t mind if he was included or not because of the sheer influx of experience at Ballymore this summer.
“The reality is Rob runs our line-out… (he is) going to be really important throughout the season,” he said.
“He’s heavily involved in it but he doesn’t have an official title and that goes for the whole group. I want to see everyone in this team be a leader.”