Former skipper Kevin Kingston says he will need to earn his spot in the Panthers' best 17 in 2014. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary's plan to include dynamic hooker James Segeyaro in his run-on side in 2014 look to have scuppered Kevin Kingston's chances of retaining the team's captaincy.
The incumbent skipper still harbours ambitions of leading the Panthers in the new season but said he was resigned to playing under a new leader – most likely prop Tim Grant – should he lose the starting gig.
"As of now, I don't think I'm the captain so I've got to earn that right again, earn the players' respect. Hopefully I get it," Kingston told NRL.com.
"I'm not even assured the nine spot. I definitely won't stand in the way of [James] Segeyaro coming up. With 'Chicko' being the first choice nine, and having good locks in this team, I've got to earn my spot in the 17 first.
"I'll still be a leader within the club, but the captaincy tag may have to wait. I'd love to be captain again, but I don't know how things are going to pan out. It's a long pre-season and you have to earn that spot."
Instead, Kingston has endorsed 25-year-old prop Tim Grant to be the long-term leader of the club. Since making his debut for the club in 2007, Grant has played 111 games for Panthers, represented NSW twice and the City Origin side three times.
"I totally recommend him as the next captain, whether it be this year or next year or however long it takes for him to get there," Kingston said.
"He'd be a great leader because he's well-respected in the team and in the community. He leads by doing, so I thoroughly recommend him."
In fact, Kingston believes there would be no shortage of leadership throughout Panthers' new-look team next season, with new recruitments Brent Kite and Jamie Soward arriving with plenty of experience.
Soward in particular has shown great maturity in the early stages of the pre-season.
"I'm absolutely pumped with the new recruits we have next year. [Phil Gould] and Ivan [Cleary] have done an excellent job recruiting, getting people at a good time in their careers," Kingston said.
"Brent Kite is going to be a great leader and guys like Elijah Taylor is going to be in his prime soon.
"But I'm excited with playing with Jamie the most. I didn't realise how much of a leader he would be. Seeing him on the field, the way he commands the ball and off the field, the example he's set for the younger guys.
"I've always had faith in Gus' and Ivan's ability to recruit, but I didn't realise how good a leader Jamie will be."
Penrith initially told Kingston earlier this year that his services were no longer needed at the club beyond 2013 but back-flipped mid-season, handing the veteran rake a one-year extension.
"There'll be a time where I'll definitely have to start thinking of what I'll be doing in 2015. There was a time last year where I thought I was leaving the club," Kingston said.
"But I reckon it's really good having one-year contracts anyway because it keeps you on your toes. It keeps you working hard so there's no complacency there. And I don't really want that, being 30. It won't be a distraction, I'm old enough to not let it affect my performance."