MVPs for 2014: Sam Thaiday
From an outsider's perspective looking in, the return of Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker to training on the same day had a similar air of turning up to a party only to find out that your ex-girlfriend is now dating one of your mates.
No one has really done anything wrong but it all just feels a bit awkward.
Whichever way the story is told, the removal of Thaiday as captain of the Broncos came as a shock just a month out from the club's first pre-season trial. Coach Anthony Griffin believed that Thaiday was the ideal leader in the post-Lockyer era but two years later he has had a change of heart.
Parker and Justin Hodges have been installed as co-captains and Griffin insists that it is a move designed to get the best out of Sam Thaiday the footballer, while the man himself remains committed to driving the Broncos forward.
"I'm still going to be a leader at our club. I may not have the job title of captain but our club has invested a lot of time and money in trying to build that leadership group and hopefully that leadership group can stay strong and take this club further," Thaiday said.
"I'll bust my butt and do everything that I can for the team this year."
He is due to play game No.200 for the club in Round 12 against the Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium on June 1 – becoming just the 11th Broncos player to reach the milestone – and the legacy he leaves will in part rest on how he handles this recent disappointment and whether he can help restore the Broncos to their familiar place as an NRL powerhouse.
The addition of former Roosters prop Martin Kennedy, veteran front-rower Jon Green and the further development of Josh McGuire should allow for Thaiday to make a return to his more favoured back-row position and stats from recent seasons tend to indicate that's where the Broncos get the best out of him.
In 2010 and 2011 he averaged 14.2 and 14.8 hit-ups per game respectively playing almost exclusively as a second-rower, while in 2012 those numbers dropped to 11.3 and then 13.0 per game in 2013 when he spent time in the front row.
The Broncos now have an overflow of riches in the back row with Thaiday, Parker, Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett, David Stagg and Todd Lowrie all jockeying to wear jumpers 11-13, but there are few in the game who can have an impact such as Thaiday.
Whether he's captain or not, his trademark charges and aggression in defence are the type of leadership displays that inspire teammates to dig deeper when they feel that the well has run dry.
If you need any proof just check out Thaiday's charge from the kick-off in the Broncos' Round 16 clash with the Warriors in Auckland last season. Following a try to Lachlan Maranta that got Brisbane back to within two points, Thaiday thundered into the Warriors defence from the first tackle of the next set, sending Kiwi prop Sam Rapira sprawling on his backside.
Each week of the season NRL.com gave fans the opportunity to vote on the 'Hit of the Week' and Thaiday's run was the only weekly winner when the punishment was dished out by the bloke with the ball.
On the back of that run Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett and Justin Hodges rumbled up-field before halfback Peter Wallace was able to put a kick deep into Warriors territory from the halfway line and the kick-chase team pinned Warriors fullback Kevin Locke inside his own 10-metre line.
Who led the kick-chase team to make the tackle? Thaiday.
It was almost the perfect set after scoring points and it was Thaiday who book-ended it with two inspirational pieces of play.
His playful personality will certainly be missed in post-game media conferences but if Thaiday is at the heart of a Broncos revival then the difficult conversation with Griffin will have achieved its ultimate objective.
And if nothing else, Sam Thaiday is all about doing whatever is best for the team.