Wayne Bennett admits the leadership of Darius Boyd exceeded his own expectations in his first year as captain and insists the Brisbane Broncos fullback is on track to put his hamstring injury behind him.
The 30-year-old fullback, who has signed a contract extension at Brisbane until the end 2021, has outlined to NRL.com just how he came to grips with the captaincy role and why he is urging teammates not to let another shot at a Telstra Premiership slip through the club’s fingers.
Boyd has seen highs and the lows on and off the field and Bennett said his life experience gave him the understanding for others that leadership required.
“I was very impressed and I thought Darius did a great job as captain, a lot better than I thought he would in his first year,” Bennett said.
“Darius did a lot of things away from the field that no-one saw except me.
“He would have learned a lot about people. He knows a bit about himself. Darius is one who’s had his own battles so he would have a lot of empathy for people, and leadership requires you to have empathy.
“If you don’t have empathy in leadership it makes it very difficult, and Darius understands that better than most.”
Boyd learned quickly all players were different and handled various situations in their own way. His attention to detail and regimented preparation routine translates to the field.
It took a month to get his head around the fact he has flashy, skilful teammates like Anthony Milford and James Roberts who have a different approach to success and how they go about their business.
“Early on I was, not pushy, but I knew how to succeed get the best out of myself and probably thought that was the way other people needed to be too,” Boyd said.
“So it took me a month to understand everyone’s personalities and what they need on the field. Some need encouragement and others need reinforcement.
“We have a lot of skilful players in the team whereas I am more of a conservative player and person. In those first five rounds we played some tough teams and didn’t score many points. Then against the Roosters we went with the flow and let everyone play their natural game a bit more and eased up.
“That was another focus for the rest of the season – to let the skilful players do their thing and have the senior guys hold the fort with the conservative game management style.”
Assistant coach Jason Demetriou said Boyd’s ability to lead by example was rubbing off on his teammates.
“With the good leaders, their best asset is often the ability to self-reflect and show their teammates they are prepared to own mistakes and work through them,” he said.
“Players respond to people who lead with their actions, as Darius does, but also show that they are human.
“Darius is a shining light in that for us. We beat the Roosters in round six convincingly when were under a lot of pressure and his leadership that week was second to none. The players responded and it set us on the way to winning the next six straight.”
Boyd is reminding his Broncos comrades they are close to the summit after last season’s top-four finish but there were no guarantees next year.
“You can always be better at anything. That is my line of thinking,” he said.
“I was happy with how I went as captain in my first year. There were lessons learned along the way but I think I got better as the year went on.
“We have an outstanding squad again for the 2018 season and the last three years we have probably had the team to win the comp.
“Every year that we don’t is a disappointment and an opportunity lost.
“It is something us older guys are constantly talking to the younger ones about and encouraging them to make the most of every opportunity, because these opportunities don’t come around that often.
“You can say another one slipped again this year, so we have to start from scratch again, have a good season and put ourselves in a strong position come finals time.”
Boyd is in good shape in his recovery from a hamstring issue and said he was enjoying his time in rehab to work individually on areas of his body which needed attention.
“He is a good athlete, Darius, and does everything right,” Bennett said.
“[Hamstrings] can always come back and bite you but there is no reason to say it will be a problem for him in the future.”