Proctor to lead by example… for now
He was encouraged by Storm leaders Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk to speak his mind but new Titans recruit Kevin Proctor says he will first earn the respect of his teammates before he begins barking orders.
After a lengthy 2016 campaign that culminated with Melbourne's loss to Cronulla in the NRL grand final and New Zealand's loss to the Kangaroos in the Four Nations final, Proctor began his new life as a Titan on Monday more than a decade after being placed at Palm Beach Currumbin High School on a scholarship with the Storm.
Signed by Melbourne as a teenager despite only a very limited background in rugby league, Proctor went on to play 179 games for the Storm over the past nine seasons and comes to the Gold Coast as a 16-Test representative expected to be one of the leaders at the club.
For a rugby league public perhaps unsure of Proctor's leadership credentials, watching the 27-year-old give his Kiwi teammates a dressing down after conceding a try against Australia during the Four Nations offered new insight into his make-up.
With such great leaders at the club few players need to make their voices heard at the Storm but Proctor said all players were encouraged to speak their mind and that he would do so at the Titans, but only after he had earned the respect of his peers.
"That's just me being competitive. I've known those boys for a while now as well so I'm comfortable talking to them like that," Proctor said of his Four Nations outburst.
"[Smith and Cronk] push you to do that stuff. If you see something they tell you to speak up.
"It doesn't matter if you've played one game or 200 games, if you see something then say it because it's only going to benefit the team anyway.
"I reckon I could help out in that area definitely but I have to come in and earn their respect first.
"You don't want to be coming in and barking orders straight away when you don't even really know the lads.
"I've got to come in here and try and earn some respect and get to know the boys a bit better before you start doing all that stuff."
Setting the right tone on the training paddock and transferring that to games was one of the great lessons Proctor took from his time with the Storm and it was on full display during Tuesday morning's training session.
He took a heavy hit in contact work before bouncing back to his feet and when his water bottle needed a refill, rather than toss it across the field he walked across and handed it to the Titans' training staff.
It was a small lesson in respect that may have gone unnoticed by the majority of the squad but was one of the reasons coach Neil Henry believes he will be of great benefit to the team and the club in the longer term.
"He's spent 10 years in Melbourne in a system that's been extremely successful under Craig Bellamy so he's certainly got some leadership in him and he's a consistent footballer," Henry told Sky Sports Radio. "[He's] an 80-minute player and we'll look to him to lead on the field and off the field.
"He's slotted straight in at training and did some work over the last few weeks so he's turned up in good shape and he wants to be here to finish his career here which is great for the club."
Indeed, setting down roots for a young man who grew up in the tiny town of Te Kuiti – the sheep shearing capital of the world – before moving to Perth, Brisbane and Tweed Heads and attending five different high schools was a major reason behind his move to the Titans.
Still with two years to run on his contract with the Storm, Proctor could see the difficulties his partner Leesa was experiencing raising their two young daughters with no family support in Melbourne. Their eldest daughter Zara will turn three midway through this year while Myra is just three months old and with both sets of grandparents based on the Gold Coast, Proctor said the time was right to make the move.
"It was just the right time," said Proctor, who is signed to the Titans until the end of the 2020 season. "My missus had two kids down in Melbourne by herself so it was more a family thing.
"She was struggling a little bit down there by herself with the two kids because I'd be going to work every day so it would have been hard for her and hard for my family as well.
"They don't really see them that much. They would have loved me coming back up here and so would have her parents so it kind of just worked out well.
"It was tough to leave but there are exciting times ahead."