Stepping into the void left when a great leader steps aside is never easy. Just ask Lyndon Johnson or Clement Attlee.
Johnson was the President of the United States of America following the assassination of John F. Kennedy while Attlee served more than six years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following Winston Churchill’s leadership during World War II.
Some might say the post of captain at the Brisbane Broncos is held in higher esteem than the Premier of Queensland and in Darren Lockyer the Broncos are about to lose their greatest ever leader.
Although Corey Parker and Alex Glenn have both captained Brisbane in Lockyer’s absence in recent years and Petero Civoniceva is on his way back to Red Hill, the man charged with the captaincy from 2012 will be rampaging second-rower Sam Thaiday.
Like his predecessor, Thaiday is a man who prefers to lead by actions rather than words, but the 2010 Dally M Second-Rower of the Year had no qualms in making his voice heard when the question was asked as to who the next captain of the Broncos would be.
“I put me hand up first and said that I’d like to do the job and the coaching staff then talked about it, the board members, the CEO and then it came from there down,” Thaiday tells Big League.
“‘Hook’ [Broncos coach Anthony Griffin] called me into his office one day to talk about extending my contract and he mentioned that it was going to include the captaincy. I remember walking out of that meeting just with a massive smile from ear to ear.
“I knew a couple of weeks in advance before we made the announcement of it all and it was kind of hard to keep it all under wraps.
“Things have fallen into place and the way the team’s going at the moment hopefully we can keep it going for next year as well.”
Griffin and club legends such as Andrew Gee and Allan Langer have reiterated to Thaiday that he doesn’t need to change anything in order to become a great leader, but the 26-year-old admits he will pick Lockyer’s brain before he heads off into retirement.
“I’ve been enjoying my time with ‘Locky’ just at the moment. He’s still the boss and I’ll have to wait until next year but I’m sure it will all sink in and I’ll think about it a little bit more once the season is finished,” he says. “I’ll be able to sit down with Locky too and have a chat, just to see what the job’s all about.
“I’ve had a few chats with ‘Gee Gee’ and Hook and they’ve told me that I’ve got the job for what I do for the team and that I don’t need to change too much.
“The thing I admire most about Locky is the way he just takes control on the field. No matter if we’re up by 40 or down by 40 he’s always got a cool and calm head and he doesn’t let situations get to him. Hopefully I can take that patience that he shows as a captain and incorporate that into my rugby league as well.
“I’ll just try to keep leading by example on the field by running hard and tackling hard.”
It will mark a significant change for the 15-game Queensland representative who has garnered something of a reputation for inflaming situations by coming in to stand up for team-mates, whether at club, state or international level. In Game Three of this year’s Origin Series he was warned for pushing Kurt Gidley in the face eight minutes into the second half, the type of act that his current captain rarely engages in.
One of the most jovial players off the field, Thaiday is all too aware of just how good life is at the moment. The captaincy came with a contract extension that will keep him at Brisbane until at least the end of the 2015 season and in December this year he will marry partner Rachel Evans.
“Life’s awesome at the moment. I’ve extended my contract with the club so I know my future is secure, being named captain is a bonus on top of that, getting married… there’s another box ticked there. I’m happy at home and it’s really helping me in my rugby league life as well,” Thaiday admits.
“She’s always the captain at home. I just do what I’m told, when I’m told, which makes life a lot easier. I never thought it would come this fast. We only got engaged at the start of the year but when you’re planning these things it’s all about planning around the footy season so we thought, ‘Why not just do it this year?’”
It’s just another phase in the maturing of Thaiday who now admits to joining the group of older Brisbane players in a flourishing sea of ‘baby Broncos’.
“I do feel like a young old bloke and the youth we have got coming through the side at the moment is great. The young kids that are enthusiastic and determined to play good footy every week… it’s keeping me young and I’m sure it will keep a lot of other guys in the team young as well.”