Victorious Burleigh Bears captain Jamal Fogarty has revealed he initially rejected coach Jim Lenihan's request to skipper the team in 2016, telling his new mentor he didn't think it was his responsibility.
Fogarty had only just joined Burleigh after playing with Tweed Heads in the Intrust Super Cup while contracted to the Gold Coast Titans, but desperate to change the culture of the club Lenihan wouldn't take no for an answer.
The Bears will attempt to extend the Intrust Super Cup champions' record of three successive wins in the Intrust Super Championship on Sunday when they face off against the Intrust Super Premiership premiers from New South Wales in the Illawarra Cutters.
Parramatta-bound Fogarty will lead the team onto the ground which he will call home for at least the next two years but admitted it was a role he had to grow into after doubts whether his new teammates would respect his voice.
"Probably six weeks into pre-season he told me that he wanted me to be captain," Fogarty said of Lenihan's initial approach.
"I looked at him and said, 'I'm not being rude or anything but I've only been here six weeks, I don't think that's my responsibility'.
"He pretty much said that he didn't care how long I'd been at the club and that he wanted me to be their captain so I didn't really have a choice and just rolled with it.
"There are blokes like Louis [Fanene] who have been here five or six years and I thought they could have put their hand up but Jimmy thought something different.
"I just tried to rip in and tried to win every race and every competition that we did in the pre-season and put my body on the line for the boys in every game.
"Hopefully at the end of the year I've won the boys' respect."
Lenihan made the decision to appoint Fogarty and Jamie Dowling as co-captains following an abbreviated army camp in pre-season where Fogarty went a long way towards winning the trust of the Bears players.
"We did an army camp at the start of the year and we did a thing where you had to rate your mates and Jamie and Jamal were the two that stood out the most so we took them as the captains," Lenihan told NRL.com.
"No one has more seniority over the club. When you're asked to come and play at the football club we want people to buy in whether you've been here for 10 years or 10 minutes.
"It was the type of character we needed to get the job done and Jamal was someone that we needed.
"We needed a change. We struggled with leadership on the field. Off the field everyone was good mates but we needed people to tell other people when they weren't doing the right thing.
"It's easy to tell people they're doing good things but we needed to have a couple of people with enough character to tell people when it wasn't good enough."
In 25 games in the under-20s Fogarty scored 11 tries and a total of 141 points but after an injury-disrupted 2015 was told by the Titans he would not be offered a new contract.
With a young family to care for – and a second child on the way – the 22-year-old from Beaudesert supplemented his contract with Burleigh with torturous work as a concreter but mentally free of the pressures that come with an NRL contract.
With his big forwards struggling in the back-end against Redcliffe he piloted them home with precision and allowed Cameron Cullen to accept the plaudits, proving that he is now ready to make good on his potential at Parramatta.
"I've just learnt to love the game a little bit more and play like you did when you were a little kid," Fogarty said.
"I was kicking cans last year when I was a bit injured and couldn't string many games together but to come here with a bit of fresh air and to meet some wonderful boys... They're not even my mates, we're all brothers.
"My eyes are a bit more open now. Coming straight out of 20s you think everything's going to fall at your feet until it all comes crashing down.
"Then you've got to mentally prepare yourself to get back up.
"I took my first two years at the Titans for granted and that's why I've worked so hard to hopefully now get a second chance and not take it for granted."