Team-mates have endorsed Greg Inglis to replace Cameron Smith as captain of Queensland and believe the South Sydney superstar is developing similar statesman-type qualities to the player described as the "benchmark" for other leaders.
Smith has redefined the role of an Origin or Test captain since taking over the position for Queensland and Australia after Darren Lockyer’s retirement in 2011 and Maroons coach Kevin Walters admitted the state had “lost our captain and our leader.”
While no decision has yet been made on who will captain the Maroons in this year’s series, Inglis is the obvious choice and he is already considered a great indigenous leader and role model.
On the field, he has been the Rabbitohs captain since 2015 and has previously skippered the Indigenous All Stars and Prime Minister’s XIII.
After suffering mental health issues following the knee injury which sidelined him for all but one match last season, Souths officials spoke to him about the added work load of being captain but he insisted he wanted to resume the position when he returned.
The Queensland and Kangaroos jobs come with even greater responsibilities but Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess, who has captained England and deputised for Inglis at the Rabbitohs last season, insists Inglis he would cope.
“He has handled it here with us and we are not a quiet club, there is always a lot of interest around us,” Burgess said.
“I guess with everything Greg has been through it was never going to be a quiet transition, coming back and captaining our side. He has handled that extremely well. I am sure he can manage it.”
Inglis declined to comment on the captaincy at Souths training on Tuesday as like most in the game he had not been aware that Smith was planning to call time on a 12-year Origin and Test career which has established him as one of the game’s greatest players.
However, Burgess and halfback Adam Reynolds said Inglis, who would become just the third Indigenous player to captain Queensland after Arthur Beetson and Gorden Tallis if chosen, was ideally suited for the role.
“This year he has been unbelievably influential across our group,” Burgess said. I have really enjoyed having him back as the captain of the team. He is just growing every week.
“This Greg, that I am seeing at my personal level, is the best version of Greg that I have seen.
“He has already been a fantastic role model for me and a lot of others throughout our careers but right now he is fine-tuning his leadership and it is great working with him.
“He is now clear in his conversations with other players. Everyone grows and gets more experienced, and Greg has just grown every day. I think he would be a great fit.”
Reynolds said Inglis deserved the honour of captaining Queensland.
“He is the captain of our club and he has done a lot in our game too,” Reynolds said. “For Greg, I am sure he would be proud and his family would be proud.
“He has done a great job for us at Souths and I am sure that would transfer well into the Origin arena.”
Meanwhile, Burgess paid tribute to Smith’s leadership and described him as a “benchmark” for other captains.
“I have had the pleasure of captaining against him a few times and he has always been a great role model for the international game,” Burgess said.
“He knows the game extremely well, he is a very good player and a very good leader of men. He seems to have a knack at that. He is a wonderful player, I respect what he is about and what he has done in the game. He does everything fantastically well.
“He has captained Australia, Queensland and Melbourne … and you look at the success of all of those three teams it is pretty unbelievable and it no coincidence. He is obviously a great leader. I’d dare say he is the benchmark.”