With 10,000 career tackles looming, Nathan Hindmarsh reveals how the captaincy at the Eels has changed him.

He is playing his 14th season in the NRL and is on the verge of passing 10,000 career tackles, but Parramatta veteran Nathan Hindmarsh says he is enjoying a new lease on life this season after finally being handed the captaincy by new coach Stephen Kearney.

Despite officially co-captaining the club with former team-mate Nathan Cayless since late 2009, Hindmarsh told NRL.com that taking over the leadership reins full-time had provided a brand new challenge as he looks to help resuscitate the Eels’ premiership credentials.

“It’s definitely made me think a lot more about the way I approach training and how I deal with the boys,” the 31-year-old said ahead of tonight’s crucial clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

“I talk a lot more than I used to – trying to help out the young blokes when I can – and I’m much more aware of how I carry myself every day when I go to training. So it’s been different for me.

“In the past I used to just let Nathan Cayless worry about that, because I considered him to be the captain of the side anyway… but things have changed and I think it’s been important for me to take on that extra responsibility.

“Obviously I try to lead by example where I can but as I said, I’m certainly talking more these days and I take those responsibilities seriously.”

Hindmarsh said that although he had never previously been too concerned about the captaincy, he rated the Eels’ opening round win over the Warriors as a career highlight and was enjoying his more senior role.

“I must admit it felt pretty special when we beat the Warriors. To captain the side to a win – it was an amazing day,” he said.

While Hindmarsh has emerged as the central leadership figure at Parramatta since Cayless’s retirement last year, new coach Kearney is looking for a unified approach from the club’s senior playing group this season.

The former Melbourne Storm assistant has already kick-started that process by putting together his own leadership group in 2011 – which boasts the likes of Luke Burt, Ben Smith, Jarryd Hayne and rising star Tim Mannah – but admits Hindmarsh has impressed with his determination to take on a greater responsibility.

“He has always been a ‘follow-me’ type leader but I think he understands that the captaincy demands a bit more and he has been fantastic,” Kearney said.

“I think from a leadership point of view he has lived in the shadow of Nathan Cayless for some time but for me, coming in and working with him for the first time, he has really stepped it up.

“He does a lot of his leading through his actions both on and off the field, which is fine. It’s a newish role for him having the sole responsibility of captaining the side.

“But he has a few guys around him that have been there for a long time as well. Luke Burt and Ben Smith give him a hand and Jarryd in his own right has those leadership qualities which all contribute to the message that Hindy is trying to push.”

The 2011 season looms as a big one for Hindmarsh, who will reach 300 first grade games mid-year should he stay healthy, but first comes a unique milestone as he looks to become the first player in NRL history to make 10,000 career tackles.

Official NRL statistics suppliers Sportsdata have the veteran back-rower needing just nine more tackles to reach that mark tonight (another supplier reported that he needed 16 earlier this week) with Kearney describing the feat as truly remarkable.

“I guess if there was one thing when you play 286 games, which I think it is this weekend, you’re going to be breaking some records – but this one is pretty amazing,” Kearney said.

“In regards to tackles, he made 55 tackles again last weekend and has always been at the top of the counts.

“He is one of those guys that only comes around so often. He has been around for 14 years and you know what you’re going to get from him every week. It’s been a real pleasure to be able to work with him up close.”

Hindmarsh said reaching 10,000 career tackles was the last thing on his mind but admitted he was proud to have been around long enough to do so.

“It’s nice to think that I’m still playing and have been able to contribute for so many years but I can assure you I won’t be out there counting my tackles [against Souths],” he laughed.

“It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about and to be honest I’m surprised they ever keep track of that sort of thing.

“To me it’s just about doing my job – I’m not really the milestone type. If it means I’ve contributed, that’s great, but I don’t see making 10,000 tackles as anything special.”

Asked how the body was holding up after 14 seasons, Hindmarsh said he felt better than ever.

“I’ve surprised myself with how fresh I feel this year,” he said. “The body feels great. I might not feel the same way in a few months’ time but right now it’s all going along really well.”

Late NRL news:

- Former Eels centre Timana Tahu is expected to be a late inclusion in the Penrith side to face Cronulla tomorrow night with Sandor Earl likely to make way.

- St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby remains in serious doubt for Sunday’s trip to New Zealand after suffering a badly corked thigh in Monday night’s loss to Cronulla.

- Newcastle fans have an agonising wait ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manly with key trio Kurt Gidley, Jarrod Mullen and Junior Sa’u all in doubt with injury concerns. They will undergo a fitness test before the match. Gidley missed last week’s win over North Queensland after aggravating a back injury against Penrith in Round 1.