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Shared leadership the way to go: Asotasi

Matt Encarnacion NRL.com Tue, Jan 28, 2014 - 12:20 PM

New Bulldogs skipper Frank Pritchard has played 213 NRL games in 11 seasons, more than co-captain Michael Ennis. Copyright: NRL Photos

Forget Sam Burgess versus Sonny Bill Williams, prepare yourselves for the most anticipated match-up of the 2014 season: Frank Pritchard one on one with a man dressed in pink. 

Given Pritchard's famous evasive skills with would-be defenders and media alike, it will be a conversation not to be missed – particularly after the earful said referee would've already copped from Michael Ennis. 

These are just some of the possibilities that can now take place after the Bulldogs announced last week that Pritchard will officially hold Ennis's hand as they lead the team down the tunnel. 

It's a trend that's becoming more popular than twerking, just without the awkward dance moves. More than a quarter of teams in the NRL now have co-captains, perhaps partially explaining why the league has cut down in-game chats with the referees

In any case, the NRL's officials have been through plenty worse before – David Manson once famously stood between a warring Mark Geyer and Wally Lewis when the State of Origin cauldron was at its hottest – but never have they seen wave after wave of team leaders barking up the tree, especially with one of them now including arguably the NRL's most prolific social media hound. 

But according to former Bulldog Roy Asotasi, there's a lot more to captaincy than taking selfies with the whistleblowers. As someone who was part of the Rabbitohs quintet of co-captains in 2012, Asotasi is now of the belief that two captains – or five – are better than one. 

"The captaincy can make or break you. You definitely feel the extra responsibility," Asotasi proffers to NRL.com. 

"You only have to look at how Sam Thaiday played last year with the Broncos and then having to step down as captain and give it Corey Parker [and Justin Hodges], that's the disadvantage of the burden of having that captaincy role.

"But at the Bulldogs it's a different situation because there's a co-captaincy there. I played through a similar system when I was at South Sydney. You share the workload and responsibility so it's not burdened to one player."

Some have suggested that coach Des Hasler's decision to hand the 30-year-old Pritchard the metaphorical armband is a desperate ploy to extract more out of a second-rower who can single-handedly turn a game on his head. After all, de didn't earn the nickname Frank the Tank for no reason. 

But if the two-time premiership-winning coach really just wanted that, then surely the man nicknamed T-Rex – aka Tony Williams – would've gotten the call-up. 

Instead, Hasler opted for arguably his most dependable destroyer, a description that was rarely used for Pritchard before he arrived in Belmore. 

"I had the pleasure of playing in a few Tests with Frank from 2004 until 2007. He was a young kid then," says Asotasi. 

"But he's matured now and the Bulldogs secured his services for another three years, so Des is definitely looking to build a team around him and Mick. 

"And I reckon a lot of the boys look up to him. There's a reason you get picked as captain, and it's not just because you're a good player. You've got to be a leader off the field."

Asotasi, who spent last week training in Belmore with his new Warrington Wolves team-mates during their tour down under, says that Pritchard will also lean heavily on advice from new recruit Reni Maitua. 

The prodigal son returns to Belmore after a five-year stint away that included stops in Cronulla and Parramatta with a drug ban in between. Other than his charge of assault on a taxi driver in December – to which he's pleaded not guilty – it's been a welcome return for the 2004 premiership-winner, who Asotasi believes will add plenty to the Bulldogs pack. 

"He's definitely a great addition to the Bulldogs. I thought he was one of the best players for Parramatta last season and obviously he found out halfway through the season that he was one of the players Ricky Stuart was letting go. That was definitely surprising, considering his form last year. 

"He's definitely had some ups and downs, but as a player, he's a great addition, especially because of his experience. And he's a guy that'll be able to also work along with Frankie in that captaincy role."